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President George W. Bush nominated O'Connor to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on June 27, 2007. On November 16, 2007, the U.S. Senate confirmed the judge's appointment. He received his commission five days later.
According to Dallas News editorial, "Federal judge ends 43-year-old desegregation order for Richardson ISD," on Thursday, July 25, 2013, U.S. District Judge O'Connor ended judicial oversight of Richardson ISD schools. His ruling dismisses a desegregation lawsuit, which was filed in 1970. O'Connor overruled arguments by the civil rights division of the Department of Justice that Richardson's polices causes racial desegregation.
Due to the 1970 lawsuit, the AP article noted that Richardson was required to shut down one all-black junior high, reassign staff, create a biracial committee and eliminate segregation of any school activities. In 2009, the district began the legal process of validating that the vestiges of legal discernment had been dealt with. The district asked O'Connor to permit what is called "unitary status" and freedom from federal control. In 2011, the judge concurred to end supervision of staff and faculty recruiting as well as hiring and oversight of student assignment to senior and junior high schools. However, O'Connor needed more information regarding how students are assigned to elementary schools and how faculty is assigned district wide.
The AP column quoted O'Connor when he claimed that Richardson ISD "has taken great strides to become compliant" with the desegregation decree. The judge continued to say that numerous Richardson schools had reached significant levels of diversity before the Hispanic population increased in their neighborhoods and they shifted campus demographics.
The AP editorial stated that federal civil rights attorneys believe the district could be doing more. The civil rights attorneys asserted that district policies regarding student transfers, the practice of allowing principles to hire teachers for their own schools and the way Richardson moves students from overcrowded schools all contribute to segregation of African American staff and students. (The 1970 mandate did not include Hispanics).
The AP article mentioned that the civil rights attorneys recommended mandatory transfers of teachers and transferring some students in order to accomplish greater racial balance. O'Connor overruled those suggestions.
The AP column reported that life has changed for Richardson ISD since the suit was filed in 1970. At that time, ninety-five percent of Richardson's students were Caucasian. In 2012, the largest portion of Richardson students was Hispanic.
The AP editorial emphasized that not much will change due to O'Connor ruling, at least not in the short term. The district is no longer obligated to uphold specific data related to compliance with the court ruling. If district officials decide they need to add more classrooms to a school, so more students from the neighborhood could attend, they wouldn't need federal approval.
The AP article covered Richardson superintendent Kay Waggoner's reaction to the judge's ruling. He said, "We have no immediate plans to alter how we operate, but this ruling will enhance our future flexibility and efficiency." Waggoner statement is important to the students who attend Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet. In 1970, almost all of the African American students in the district went to what was then Hamilton Park School. As a result of the court ruling, the district established the "pacesetter" elementary school, which provided programs that weren't available at other district schools. The district also brought in Hispanic and white students who did not live in the neighborhood.
The AP column acknowledged that Richardson was one of five school districts that was named in the 1970 suit. Local districts placed under judicial oversight by civil rights suits include Grand Prairie, Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Garland, Fort Worth and Dallas. Garland is the only district not to have been permitted unitary status.
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