Racial integration in Pinellas and Hillsborough schools

Published June 29, 2007

In Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, the Supreme Court says forcing black children to attend separate -- often inferior -- schools violates their right to be treated equally under the law. A year later, the court makes a second ruling, known as Brown II, that says placing black and white students in the same schools must be done with "all deliberate speed." But little progress is made until black parents, including those in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, sue school districts.



The first school desegregation occurs when black students are admitted to St. Petersburg Junior College.

With Pinellas schools still mostly segregated, a group of black parents works with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund to sue the Pinellas School Board.

U.S. District Judge Joseph P. Lieb orders the desegregation of Pinellas schools. The district comes up with a plan, but the NAACP Legal Defense Fund doesn't think it's good enough.

The School Board votes to desegregate schools countywide. Judge Lieb accepts the plan and orders no school be allowed to have a population more than 30 percent black. The number of kids bused to school jumps from 35,000 to 46,000.

A judge approves the idea of using magnet schools, which specialize in specific disciplines, to encourage white families to attend schools in black neighborhoods.

A new federal judge, Steven Merryday, says it's time to determine if the county is a "unitary" school system that treats all students fairly. He also tells the School Board and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to work out an agreement. The parties agree to gradually end busing over the next nine years.

Sides agree to end "court-ordered busing." Judge Merryday ends the 1964 lawsuit. The School Board approves a "choice plan" to get black and white families to voluntarily choose schools outside their neighborhoods.

The choice plan begins. For the first four years, it will be very much like the old busing plan, with a rule that no school is more than 42 percent black. The first four years are called "controlled choice."

Controlled choice ends in May, and for the first time since 1971, the district will not use race when assigning students to schools. School officials begin work on a new plan.



Four black parents, prevented from putting their children in white schools, take the school district to court in Andrew L. Manning vs. School Board of Hillsborough County.

A federal court rules Hillsborough is operating an illegally segregated school system.

After nine years with little progress, U.S. District Judge Ben Krentzman orders desegregation in Hillsborough schools. Black and white students are bused so all schools will be roughly 80 percent white and 20 percent black.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund takes the district back to court, accusing it of failing to comply with the 1971 court order by allowing 16 schools to become more than 40 percent black.

A new judge, Elizabeth A. Kovachevich, declines to rule on the question of racially identifiable schools and instead orders a hearing to determine whether the district is "unitary," or desegregated.

U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Jenkins finds Hillsborough schools have achieved "unitary" status and recommends the court end supervision of the school district.

Kovachevich rejects Jenkins' recommendation, saying the School Board has not done enough to eliminate segregation.

The School Board approves a "controlled choice" assignment plan to replace busing.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns Kovachevich and orders her to declare Hillsborough schools unitary. Kovachevich does this and officially concludes the case.

June: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund appeals Kovachevich's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declines to hear appeal.

"Controlled choice" debuts. For the first time in 33 years, the only children who will be bused for integration are those who have chosen it.