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Board of Education of Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell

United States Supreme Court
498 U.S. 237 (1991)

Board of Education of Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell


In 1961, Dowell (plaintiff), an African American student, along with other African American students sued the Board of Education of Oklahoma City Public Schools (defendant) to end de jure segregation in the public schools. In 1963, the district court found that the Board intentionally operated a segregated school system in the past and was currently operating such a system. The district court required the Board to take steps to desegregate its schools. In 1965, the district court found that the Board’s subsequent attempt to desegregate by using neighborhood zoning failed to remedy past segregation because residential segregation ultimately resulted in single-race schools. In 1972, still finding that previous efforts were not successful in remedying past segregation, the district court issued an injunctive decree ordering the Board to use busing to transport children of different races to different schools for the purpose of eliminating single-race schools. The Board challenged this desegregation plan in federal district court, and the court upheld the challenge and invalidated the plan. The court of appeals reversed, however, holding that the Board would be entitled to such relief only upon “nothing less than a clear showing of grievous wrong evoked by new and unforeseen conditions.” The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Dissent (Marshall, J.)

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