Judge denies PCSSD request to be ruled unitary


(KATV) The Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) is going back to the drawing board.

A federal judge has once again denied the embattled district's request to be declared unitary/desegregated. U.S. District Judge D.P. Marshall handed down the ruling Monday afternoon. The district first petitioned for unitary status in 2007, but a judge denied that request in 2011.

Unitary means no characteristics of a segregated district, basically that services are fair for all students. Superintendent Doctor Jerry Guess says they're almost there. "I'm very encouraged and the court was complimentary of our efforts as we move forward."

The district has not been ruled unitary in more than 20-years. Dr. Guess says the next step is to propose a short discovery period, a motion date, a compressed briefing schedule and an order of trial.

They have nine areas to become unitary in, including student assignment, advanced placement, gifted and talented programs, special education and staff. "So what we've asked the court to do is consider our evidence in those areas and again the judge has denied unitary status at this point." Dr. Guess continues, "But he has given us the opportunity to request hearings to present evidence that we are unitary."

So for now, PCSSD will continue receiving the $20 million dollars a year from the Department of Education for desegregation. "We use the funding to provide the necessary deseg services so the funding is specifically used for those deseg programs," Dr. Guess explains.

However, the fiscally distressed district won't be able to handle that money being pulled out from under them all at once, the day they're declared unitary. "I don't think you can take that money away all the sudden, it has to be a gradual phase down of that funding as we phase out services."

The district has to file a status report by February with more information about their efforts to be unitary. A hearing can be scheduled as early as August.

The North Little Rock and Little Rock districts have already been declared unitary.

When the district is declared desegregated/unitary, the money for the services will end. Dr. Guess says popular programs like Minority to Majority transfer will likely be phased out. M to M transfer means a student can transfer to a school where their race is the minority. Currently magnet schools are subject to racial guidelines, so that could change too.