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Kari Carlin et al v. Board of Education, San Diego Unified School District (1967) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Kari Carlin et al v. Board of Education, San Diego Unified School District (1967)
Variant Name: Carlin Integration Case; Carlin v. San Diego Schools

Historical Note:

The San Diego City Schools originally followed a neighborhood school policy, under which students attended the school nearest their homes.  Therefore, the schools reflected neighborhood segregation.  While wealthier whites could afford to move to newer, more expensive neighborhoods with better schools, the lower income minority populations remained in the older, less wealthy neighborhoods with older schools.

The San Diego Unified School District had received many complaints concerning the obvious segregation of city schools.  In 1963, the NAACP presented recommendations designed to reduce school segregation in the San Diego Unified School District.  Then, in 1965, the San Diego School Board adopted a resolution calling for the elimination of segregation in San Diego schools.  In 1966, the Citizens Committee on Equal Educational Opportunity confirmed that a racial imbalance existed.  The school district, however, failed to implement any of the Citizens Committee's 39 recommendations.  About forty groups, unhappy with the district's non-response, established the Interorganizational Committee (IOC) to make further recommendations.  Larry Carlin, a teacher and former secretary for the Citizens Committee, headed the IOC.  In 1967, Carlin and several other parents active in the IOC filed a class action lawsuit against the San Diego Unified School District for alleged inequalities of educational opportunities for students of all ethnic backgrounds, formally titled Kari Carlin et al v. Board of Education, San Diego Unified School District.  The plaintiffs filed the suit in the name of ten children who represented four ethnic groups (Caucasian, African-American, Chicano, and Asian-American).

A conflict between state and federal law prevented the case from moving forward.  San Diego city school segregation was not deliberate, it was the result of housing patterns.  Federal law stipulated that segregation was illegal, but California law maintained that as long as segregation was not intentional and facilities were equal, de facto segregation was not unlawful.  The decision to continue the Carlin case rested on the outcome of Crawford v. Los Angeles Board of Education.  In 1976, the California Supreme Court ruled that segregation, "regardless of its cause," must be rectified, thus making San Diego's segregation illegal.

In 1975, Carlin was reactivated.  Two years later Judge Welsh found that twenty-three San Diego schools were segregated, and the Court ordered the San Diego Unified School District to develop a detailed voluntary plan to alleviate racial segregation in these schools.  The plaintiffs had hoped for a mandatory plan.  In 1978, Judge Welsh created the Integration Task Force to assess and monitor the school district's progress.  Annual hearings to evaluate the new plan were implemented, and additional hearings were also set up to deal with any unforeseen issues that arose during the integration process.

In response to Judge Welsh's order, the Board of Education began improving existing school integration programs, and implementing new ones.  In 1966, the Board had created the Voluntary Ethnic Transfer Program (later called the Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment Program, or VEEP), to improve the ethnic balance at predominately white schools.  In 1974, the school board began promoting VEEP through feeder patterns.  A magnet program, set up in 1973, was meant to attract white students to inner-city schools. Finally, the Race/Human Relations program, begun in 1972, designed and promoted multicultural awareness through workshops and field trips for staff and students.

In 1985, the court decided that progress toward an acceptable ethnic balance had been reached, and therefore, it issued a final order, which terminated the Integration Task Force, and ended the annual progress hearings.  An annual written report was to be submitted to review the district's progress.  Although the Board's plan changed the ethnic composition of city schools, very little social integration occurred, and an achievement gap still existed between the Caucasian majority students and the minority students.

Note Author: Amanda Lanthorne

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