Judge Blocks Omaha School Race-Division Law

AP, September 18, 2006


For background on this story see the following:

Omaha Schools Split Along Race Lines

Scott Bauer, AP, April 13, 2006

Omaha Schools Sued By NAACP For Racial Divisions

AP, May 16, 2006

Plan For Omaha Schools Raises Segregation Concerns

Public Broadcasting System, May 31, 2006


Omaha, Neb.—A judge on Monday blocked the implementation of a law that would divide the Omaha school district into three racially identifiable districts.

The law, passed in April and set to take effect in 2008, would have split the Omaha Public Schools into one mostly black district, one largely Hispanic and one predominantly white. It also would have forced 11 school districts in two counties to share resources, including state funding, as part of a “learning community.”

Douglas County District Judge Michael Coffey ordered a temporary injunction blocking implementation of the law, which was aimed at solving a dispute over school boundaries after the district tried to take over some suburban schools. The injunction will remain in effect while the lawsuit is decided unless the court decides to lift it sooner.

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Coffey also said the learning community board’s voting structure would violate the Nebraska Constitution because a large district’s vote would count the same as a small district. The board was set to hold its first meeting Tuesday.

The injunction was in response to a lawsuit by the Chicano Awareness Center, a Latino outreach group, and five parents of children in Omaha public schools. The NAACP has also sued over the law, saying it violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling outlawing school segregation.

The 45,000-student Omaha school system is 46 percent white, 31 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian or American Indian.


Omaha—The U.S. Civil Rights Commission heard from two state senators Friday on the Nebraska Legislature’s decision do split Omaha Public Schools into three racially identifiable districts.

State Sens. Ernie Chambers and Patrick Bourne spoke at the field hearing in Omaha. Chambers, who introduced to amendment to split the district, said he was offering a plan to improve students’ achievement, which OPS has never done.

“I’m not going to continue watching grades plummet for these black children and have people talk to me about integration,” Chambers said to applause from some in the crowd of about 150 people at the Hilton Omaha.

Chambers said the racial makeup of the districts was meaningless.

“I don’t think there needs to be integration,” he said. “It’s not education’s job.”

Bourne, who tried to fend off the amendment in April, said the new districts would result in state-sanctioned segregation. He said the statute allows four options for the breakup, each of which creates racially identifiable results.

“It is not possible to draw these districts and not have a black district, a Hispanic district and a white district,” Bourne said.

The law, which doesn’t go into effect until 2008, forces all 11 existing districts in Douglas and Sarpy Counties to share resources as a “learning community.”

An NAACP lawsuit contends that the new law violates the constitutional principles embodied in the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that led to desegregation of U.S. schools, which said separate but equal facilities are inherently unequal.

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