The Future of School Desegregation

93 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2000

See all articles by Wendy Parker

Wendy Parker

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Date Written: August 2000


The Future of School Desegregation examines the widespread perception that court-ordered school desegregation is dead or, at the very least, that the death knell has sounded. Four forces appear to indicate the end of desegregation cases: recent opinions by the Supreme Court, attitudes of lower court judges, opposition of parents, and the resegregation of our public schools. Yet, we presently lack empirical data to test the effect of these four forces and the validity of the declared death of desegregation litigation.

To determine the current status of school desegregation cases, the author conducted two empirical studies covering 189 cases. The analyses clearly demonstrate that the perceived end of desegregation litigation is wrong; rather, the vast majority of cases are pending. The true problem with the future of school desegregation is that we have allowed most cases to languish with their dormant suits. School districts have found that not seeking termination of their school desegregation cases imposes little, if any, costs, while dismissal proceedings would require an examination of how the districts treat minority school children.

Unfortunately, languishing school desegregation decrees can be educationally harmful or legally inadequate. The article argues that the party-driven mode of litigation is ineffective in school desegregation and that more active judicial intervention is warranted. For contrary to the popular idea of judge acting as "local superintendents," judges have taken a remarkably minor, passive role.

Suggested Citation

Parker, Wendy, The Future of School Desegregation (August 2000). Available at SSRN: or

Wendy Parker (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

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