United States v. State of Georgia , 171 F.3d 1333 ( 1999 )


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                           IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
    
                                    FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
                                                                                  FILED
                                                                          U.S. COURT OF APPEALS
                                      ________________________              ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
                                                                                 04/08/99
                                             No. 96-9062                     THOMAS K. KAHN
                                      ________________________                    CLERK
    
                                 D. C. Docket No. 1:69-CV-12972-RLV
    
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al.,
    
    
                                                                                 Plaintiffs-Appellants,
    
                                                  versus
    
    
    STATE OF GEORGIA, Meriwether County,
    MERIWETHER COUNTY,
    
                                                                            Defendants-Appellees.
                                      ________________________
    
                              Appeals from the United States District Court
                                 for the Northern District of Georgia
                                    _________________________
                                            (April 8, 1999)
    
    
    
    Before ANDERSON and BARKETT, Circuit Judges, and HILL, Senior Circuit Judge.
    
    
    ANDERSON, Circuit Judge:
    
                                              I. OVERVIEW
    
           The United States and intervenors Charles Ridley et al. (collectively “Plaintiffs”) appeal
    
    from the district court’s order approving the Meriwether County Board of Education’s (“Board”)
    
    “Five Year Facilities Plan” (“Plan”). Plaintiffs contend that the district court applied the wrong
    legal standard in gauging the Plan and assert that the court’s subsequent approval of the Plan
    
    constituted an abuse of discretion. For the reasons stated below, we disagree. Accordingly, we
    
    affirm.
    
                                II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
    
              The facts relevant to this appeal begin in 1988. The point of contention was the issue of
    
    a consolidated high school for Meriwether County.1 Plaintiffs favored the construction of a
    
    consolidated school, whereas the 1988 Board did not. In April of 1988, following the election of
    
    a new Board, the new Board disavowed an earlier proposal adopted by the 1987 Board prior to
    
    the election that had promoted the construction of a consolidated high school. The Board’s
    
    about face against consolidation was due to a shift in its political alignment–a majority of the
    
    board now opposed consolidation, whereas only months before a majority had favored it.
    
              More than a year later, in July 1989, the Board, having abandoned the consolidation
    
    model, formally decided to adopt a new construction plan that would involve two high schools
    
    and that would be financed by a bond issue. The bond issue was to be passed by referendum.
    
    Soon thereafter, on October 16, 1989, the Plaintiffs filed in district court, arguing that
    
    abandonment of the consolidation plan violated the 1973 desegregation order (“1973 Order”).2
    
    
              1
             For a fuller account, please see United States v. Georgia, 
    19 F.3d 1388
    , 1390-91 (11th
    Cir. 1994).
              2
             A three-judge panel of the Northern District of Georgia entered the 1973 Order
    permanently enjoining Meriwether County, and several other counties, from taking any action
    “which tends to segregate students or faculty by or within schools on the basis of race, color or
    national origin.” 1973 Order at 6. In outlining the school districts’ desegregation obligations,
    the order also stated that: “All school construction, school consolidation and site selection
    (including the location of any temporary classrooms) in the system shall be done in a manner
    which will prevent the reoccurrence of the dual school structure.” 1973 Order at 7.
            The 1973 Order is the same order with respect to which an intervenor in a companion
    
                                                      2
    Accordingly, they sought, among other relief, an order from the district court mandating the
    
    pursuit of the earlier plan calling for the construction of a consolidated high school. As a
    
    preliminary response to Plaintiffs’ filing, the district court entered an order directing the State of
    
    Georgia to freeze state funds which had been previously been allocated to the Board for the
    
    construction of a consolidated high school. The district court then set a bench trial for 1990.
    
           At the conclusion of the bench trial in 1990, the district court declined to order that
    
    Meriwether County build a consolidated high school.3 The court did order the closing of one
    
    high school, Woodbury High School, halted intra-district transfers (except majority-to-minority
    
    transfers) and halted new inter-district transfers (except for students who lived within the
    
    Manchester city limits of Talbot County). Furthermore, the court ordered equalization of the
    
    curriculum of all schools in the district and achievement of racial balance in teaching and staff
    
    
    
    
    case takes the position that the 1973 Order constituted a finding of “unitary status.” No such
    argument is made in this case, but in any event, we reject that argument in the companion case in
    a decision issued simultaneously with this decision. See United States v. Georgia, __ F.3d __
    (No. 97-9199, 11th Cir. 1999).
    
    
    
           3
               Regarding the consolidation issue, Judge Robert L. Vining, Jr. stated:
    
                     I will not make a decision in this case on the basis or having as one of its premises
                     that one high school would be superior to two. I do not think that’s for me to say.
                     It may be that one high school would be superior to two, but I think the basis of
                     my decision must be, or the standard must be, whether the plan as adopted and put
                     into effect by the school board at my direction will ensure that a segregated
                     system is not maintained or returned to. I think that, broadly speaking, that has
                     got to be the basis.
    
           Transcript of Proceedings, May 31, 1990 Hearing at 98.
    
                                                       3
    assignments. Again, however, the court did not order consolidation. No appeal was taken from
    
    this ruling.
    
             In January 1993, the Board realigned itself, and again moved toward the construction of a
    
    consolidated high school. At the request of all parties, on January 27, 1993, the district court
    
    ordered the State of Georgia to release the state funds that had been earmarked for the building of
    
    the consolidated high school to Meriwether County. Nine days later, Coleman Bass4 and others
    
    opposed to consolidation filed a motion to intervene, seeking to enjoin the distribution of the funds
    
    for consolidation. All parties to the litigation opposed the intervention, and on March 2, 1993, the
    
    district court denied the intervention motion.5
    
             On May 27, 1993, before the funds for construction had been released, however, the
    
    putative intervenors succeeded in enjoining the Board from pursuing the consolidation project by
    
    winning a temporary restraining order from Fulton County Superior Court Judge William Daniel.6
    
    The Board appealed the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court, but that court dismissed the
    
    appeal on October 31, 1994. Meriwether County Board of Education v. Bass et al., Docket No.
    
    S95A0115, (Ga. 1994). The Board then approached the populace of Meriwether County for
    
    guidance, placing before it in a referendum the issue of closing the two existing high schools,
    
    
             4
            Coleman Bass was the former chairman of the Board who had opposed the original
    consolidation plan. See United States v. Georgia, 19 F.3d at 1392 n.4 (commenting on Bass’
    former political position).
             5
                 This court subsequently affirmed in United States v. Georgia, 
    19 F.3d 1388
     (11th Cir.
    1994).
             6
              Judge Daniel enjoined the consolidation effort based on his view that O.C.G.A. § 20-2-
    260 had not been satisfied. That statute mandates, inter alia, that a school board hold at least two
    public hearings to provide an opportunity for full discussion of a consolidation plan. See United
    States v. Georgia, 19 F.3d at 1392 n.5 (discussing statute).
    
                                                        4
    Greenville and Manchester, and building a consolidated school. The voters rejected the proposal
    
    on November 8, 1994.
    
           Defeated yet again, the Board abandoned the consolidation effort and returned to
    
    developing a new facilities plan using a two-high school model. After several modifications, the
    
    final version of the Plan was adopted by a unanimous Board.7 The Board submitted the Plan to the
    
    district court for approval on January 23, 1996. The court approved. The United States and the
    
    intervenors (“Plaintiffs”) did not sign on, however. They filed objections to the Plan on March 22,
    
    1996. The district court issued an opinion approving the Plan on August 22, 1996, and disagreeing
    
    with the Plaintiffs that the Plan constituted a violation of the school district’s desegregation
    
    obligations. Plaintiffs now appeal that ruling.
    
    
    
                                       III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
    
           A district court’s approval of a proposed facilities plan is reviewed for abuse of discretion.
    
    Harris v. Crenshaw County Bd. of Educ., 
    968 F.2d 1090
    , 1091 (11th Cir. 1992). Its findings of
    
    fact are reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard. Lee v. Anniston City Sch. Sys., 
    737 F.2d 952
    , 955 (11th Cir.1984)(citing Ross v. Houston Independent Sch. Dist., 
    699 F.2d 218
    , 226 (5th
    
    Cir. 1983).8
    
    
    
    
           7
             The bond referendum to provide the financing for the construction called for under the
    Plan later passed in September 1996.
           8
              Plaintiffs do not argue that we should not apply the clearly erroneous standard with
    respect to the findings of fact and the overall abuse of discretion standard. Rather, Plaintiffs
    argue only that the district court abused its discretion, and point to specific instances in which
    the district court allegedly applied an erroneous legal principle (which we address below).
    
    
                                                       5
                                              IV. DISCUSSION
    
           At core, a federal court’s obligation is to enforce the constitutional mandate “[t]hat the
    
    duty and responsibility of a school district once segregated by law is to take all steps necessary to
    
    eliminate the vestiges of the unconstitutional de jure system.” Freeman v. Pitts, 
    503 U.S. 465
    , 487,
    
    
    112 S. Ct. 1430
    , 1443 (1992). But while the court clearly has as its goal to remedy the underlying
    
    constitutional violation, a federal court “in devising a remedy must take into account the interest of
    
    state and local authorities in managing their own affairs, consistent with the Constitution.”
    
    Milliken v. Bradley, 
    433 U.S. 267
    , 280-81, 
    97 S. Ct. 2749
    , 2757-58 (1977); see also Freeman, 503
    
    U.S. at 489, 112 S.Ct. at 1445 (“We have said that the court’s end purpose must be to remedy the
    
    violation and, in addition, to restore state and local authorities to the control of a school system
    
    that is operating in compliance with the Constitution.”)(citing Milliken). Indeed, this court has
    
    pointed out that “[o]ne of the ultimate considerations in a desegregation case is that the basic
    
    administration of a school district, such as the number and location of schools, should be left to the
    
    political process.” United States v. Georgia, 
    19 F.3d 1388
    , 1392 (11th Cir. 1994). Thus, while the
    
    school district has a continuing obligation “to act in a manner that would prevent a recurrence of
    
    the previous dual school system,” Adams v. Board of Pub. Educ., 
    770 F.2d 1562
    , 1565 (11th Cir.
    
    1985), it is a federal court’s duty to recall, upon a showing of good faith by the school district that
    
    it has complied with the desegregation order to the extent practicable, that the “‘school authorities
    
    have the primary responsibility for elucidating, assessing and solving these problems.’” Lee v.
    
    Anniston City Sch. Sys., 
    737 F.2d 952
    , 955 (11th Cir. 1984)(quoting Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U.S.
    
    at 281, 97 S.Ct. at 2757). Against this backdrop, we approach the narrow question presented
    
    here–whether the district court abused its discretion in approving the Board’s Plan. Plaintiffs
    
    
                                                       6
    argue generally that the district court abused its discretion in approving the Plan, and they point to
    
    specific instances in which they contend that the district court applied erroneous legal principles.
    
    We address both in our discussion below.
    
           First, we address Plaintiffs’ argument that the district court employed the wrong legal
    
    standard by improperly focusing solely on whether the Plan stemmed from any impermissible
    
    racial animus and by thus neglecting the school district’s affirmative duty to remedy the effects of
    
    segregation. In sum, they assert that the district court incorrectly based its stamp of approval on
    
    the faulty legal premise that any “facilities plan is acceptable as long as it is not discriminatorily
    
    motivated.” Brief of United States at 24 . We do not believe this fairly characterizes the district
    
    court’s order.
    
           Rather than focusing exclusively on intentional discrimination, the district court merely
    
    discussed the absence of evidence indicating that racial motives played any part in the Board’s
    
    decisionmaking process. This observation is certainly a relevant one under the law of this Circuit.
    
    See Adams v. Board of Public Educ., 
    770 F.2d 1562
    , 1566 (11th Cir. 1985) (noting that plaintiffs
    
    failed to present any evidence that racial factors played a part in board’s decisionmaking process);
    
    Lee v. Anniston City Sch. Sys., 
    737 F.2d 952
    , 956-57 (11th Cir. 1984)(discussing whether school
    
    closing was racially motivated and concluding it was not). The district court considered the
    
    absence of racial animus as only one factor in its examination of the Plan, and having checked that
    
    factor off its list for lack of any supporting evidence, moved on to consider other factors–such as
    
    the effects of the Plan. We cannot say this methodology was an abuse of a discretion.
    
           Indeed, any plan that was motivated by discriminatory intent would certainly perpetuate the
    
    vestiges of discrimination and thus would not meet the school district’s obligation under Freeman.
    
    
                                                       7
    By frontally eliminating this possibility, the court was simply attacking the case from the ground
    
    up, and considering the multifaceted inquiry that desegregation jurisprudence entails. We cannot
    
    fault the approach of looking first to motive and then to effects.
    
           In addition to the lack of intentional discrimination, the court went on to consider five of
    
    the six factors from Green v. County School Bd. of New Kent County, 
    391 U.S. 430
    , 437, 
    88 S. Ct. 1689
    , 1693 (1968). The six Green factors are: student assignments, transportation, faculty, staff,
    
    extracurricular activities, and facilities. Id. By addressing the lion’s share of these factors, the
    
    district court applied the proper legal standard articulated in Green, for the Green factors are the
    
    guideposts in a court’s determination as to whether a proposed plan would eliminate the “vestiges
    
    of de jure segregation . . . as far as practicable.” See Board of Educ. of Oklahoma City v. Dowell,
    
    
    498 U.S. 237
    , 250, 
    111 S. Ct. 630
    , 638 (1991)(stating that courts should look to the Green factors
    
    in considering whether vestiges of past discrimination have been eliminated to the extent
    
    practicable). Therefore, we are satisfied that by following the directives of Green, the district
    
    court employed the proper legal standard in gauging the Plan–that is, whether the Plan eliminated
    
    the vestiges of prior de jure segregation to the extent practicable.
    
           A.      Student Assignments
    
           One such vestige, indeed the hallmark of a dual system, is schools that are markedly
    
    identifiable in terms of race. Freeman, 503 U.S. at 487, 112 S.Ct. at 1443. The district court
    
    expressly addressed the Plaintiffs’ concerns regarding racial identifiability with respect to student
    
    assignments on pages 6 and 7 of the order, finding that, none of the schools were projected to have
    
    
    
    
                                                       8
    an enrollment that differed more than 20% from the district-wide ratio, and that the schools were
    
    not impermissibly racially identifiable. Order at 6-7.9
    
           Plaintiffs now argue that the district court employed the 20% deviation figure as the
    
    universal legal benchmark and that such a tactic constitutes an abuse of discretion. This argument
    
    misreads the district court opinion. The district court expressly acknowledged in its racial
    
    identifiability analysis “that there is no magic statistical number which can be utilized to determine
    
    whether schools are racially identifiable.” Order at 7. The court did go on to conclude, however,
    
    that a “ +/- ratio of 20% is not enough in and of itself to warrant such identification.” Order at 7.
    
    Other courts have also utilized such a 20% deviation figure. See, e.g., Freeman, 503 U.S. at 476,
    
    112 S.Ct. at 1438; Stell v. Board of Educ., 
    860 F. Supp. 1563
    , 1570-71 (S.D. Ga. 1994).
    
           Plaintiffs’ argument seems to suggest that because the enrollment percentages deviated by
    
    no more than 20% from the district-wide average, that the district court closed its eyes to all of
    
    Plaintiffs’ evidence regarding racial identifiability. This is simply not the case. The court
    
    considered Plaintiffs’ arguments regarding community perceptions and past and current
    
    enrollments. There is ample evidence in the record to support the district court’s finding with
    
    respect to lack of racial identifiability, and its conclusion in this regard was not clearly erroneous.
    
    
    
    
           9
             According to Defendants, once the Plan is implemented, of the system’s seven schools,
    one will be close to perfectly racially balanced (North Elementary); two schools will be within
    10% of the county-wide ratio (North Middle and South Middle); two will be within 15% of the
    county-wide ratio (South Elementary and South High School); and two will be within 20% of the
    county-wide ratio (North High and Middle Elementary). None of the schools deviates by more
    than 20% from the county-wide ratio of 65% black and 35% white.
    
                                                       9
           Plaintiffs would have us impose an obligation on the Meriwether County school district
    
    that is far stricter than the one announced by the Supreme Court in Freeman. The court clearly
    
    stated in Freeman:
    
           That there was racial imbalance in student attendance zones was not tantamount to
           a showing that the school district was in non-compliance with the decree or with its
           duties under the law. Racial balance is not to be achieved for its own sake. It is to
           be pursued when racial imbalance has been caused by a constitutional violation.
           Once the racial imbalance due to the de jure violation has been remedied, the school
           district is under no duty to remedy imbalance that is caused by demographic factors.
    
    Id., 503 U.S. at 494, 112 S.Ct. at 1447.
    
           Meriwether County’s population center is located in the southern portion of the county and
    
    that portion contains a larger percentage of white residents than do the central and northern
    
    portions of the county. Thus, it follows that the northern and central schools would have a higher
    
    percentage of black students than those in the southern region. The district court found, however,
    
    that this is the result of the above stated demographics and is not traceable to a prior de jure policy
    
    of segregation. We cannot conclude that this finding is clearly erroneous. Plaintiffs concede as
    
    much by stating that “[w]hile it may be true that the present population of the high schools as well
    
    as that of the elementary schools reflects residential patterns in the county, it is not written in stone
    
    that this relatively small county must be divided on a north-south axis for school attendance
    
    purposes. Traveling from north to south and vice versa to attend school is not impossible.” Brief
    
    of United States at 32.
    
           Plaintiffs’ contention ignores the teaching of Freeman that racial balance is not an end in
    
    itself. Therefore, while it is not “impossible” to dramatically alter the attendance zones, neither is
    
    it necessary under Freeman, so long as they are not vestiges of past discrimination. The law does
    
    not make a school district a prisoner based on factors, such as demographic tendencies, that are
    
                                                       10
    beyond its control. This is the clear import of Freeman. See id. at 495, 112 S.Ct. at 1448 (noting
    
    that where racial imbalances spring not from state action but from private choices the imbalances
    
    do not have constitutional implications). Once a court satisfies itself that the enrollment patterns
    
    are not the product of de jure segregation, as the district court did here, the school district need not
    
    wage a battle against demographics to achieve perfect racial balance. Freeman, 503 U.S. at 494-95,
    
    112 S.Ct. at 1447-48.
    
           An important consideration in this context is the school district’s good faith. Freeman, 503
    
    U.S. at 494, 112 S.Ct. at 1448; Lee, 737 F.2d at 956 (11th Cir. 1984). Meriwether County has
    
    demonstrated its good faith by pursuing a consolidated high school in 1993 and 1994,
    
    characterized by the Plaintiffs as the most desegregative alternative, and arguing against the
    
    intervention of those who opposed consolidation in United States v. Georgia. Having lost the fight
    
    for consolidation10 in state court, and at the polls, and recognizing that the entire school system
    
    was in need of significant repair, the Board decided to pursue a course that was the most
    
    practicable and the most beneficial to the most schools in the county.11 We are persuaded that the
    
    Board did arrive at the current Plan in a good faith attempt to comply with its desegregation
    
    obligations to the most practicable extent.
    
    
           10
              The issue of a consolidated high school, vel non, was also fully litigated before Judge
    Vining, and in 1990 Judge Vining held that a consolidated high school was not constitutionally
    required. See supra note 3. Plaintiffs do not ask us to revisit that ruling.
           11
             Phase 1 of the Plan proposes the construction of three new buildings: a new North
    Elementary School (to house the student populations of Luthersville Elementary and McCrary
    Elementary); a new North High School (to house students who previously attended Greenville
    High School); and a new South Elementary School (to house the current students of Warm
    Springs Elementary and Manchester Elementary). It is worth noting that each section of the
    county will receive a new building under Phase 1 of the Plan, including the northern regions of
    the county, which have the larger percentage of black students.
    
                                                       11
           Another important consideration is what this court has referred to as “the limits of
    
    practicalities such as funding and transportation.” Lee, 737 F.2d at 957. Meriwether County has
    
    encountered severe difficulty in recent years in passing bond referenda to finance school
    
    construction projects. In fact, not one succeeded until September 199612–the one approving
    
    funding for the Plan currently challenged by Plaintiffs. Yet Plaintiffs would have us set aside this
    
    success, because, in their eyes, a Plan could be adopted that would achieve more perfect racial
    
    balance.13 As noted above, there was no obligation in Freeman to remedy imbalances that are a
    
    function of demographics; the circumstances are similar here, and there is likewise no such
    
    obligation here. The district court must view the Plan by the standard that it must eliminate the
    
    vestiges of the prior unconstitutional system to the extent practicable. Freeman, 503 U.S. at 492,
    
    112 S.Ct. at 1446. Dramatically altering attendance zones, when not constitutionally required, and
    
    demonstrably politically unpopular,14 is not a necessary path to take. Accord Lee, 737 F.2d at 956
    
           12
               Notably, the Plan received the unanimous approval of the Board before it was sent
    before the county in the 1996 referendum. This unanimity was no doubt instrumental in the
    Plan’s ultimate success in the referendum. Defendants assert that this unanimity was achieved
    for three reasons: (1) the Plan did not alter the attendance zones which had been in place
    (excepting the adjustments made after the closing of Woodbury High School in 1990) since the
    1973 Order; (2) the Plan identified the three schools in the most need of replacement: Greenville
    High School, Luthersville Elementary, and Warm Springs Elementary; and (3) the Plan would
    provide Manchester–the population hub of the county–with a new facility, thereby increasing the
    chance of a successful bond referendum. These reasons do not violate the constitutional mandate
    of Freeman. Indeed, they seem to fall comfortably within it and embody precisely the sort of
    local political decisionmaking that is essential to “the basic administration of a school district.”
    United States v. Georgia, 19 F.3d at 1392.
           13
              Plaintiffs’ suggested alternatives mask their real desire to have a consolidated high
    school. As previously noted, the district court refused to order consolidation after a bench trial
    in 1990, and a consolidation proposal was defeated by Meriwether County voters in 1994.
           14
               As mentioned above, altering the school attendance zones would have been unpopular
    and would have produced divisiveness among the Board members and in the community, thereby
    tainting the likelihood of a successful bond referendum and dashing with it the hope of financing
    
                                                     12
    (rejecting the plaintiffs’ argument favoring a plan for the purpose of achieving even greater
    
    desegregation under circumstances similar to those in the instant case). All parties agree that the
    
    schools in Meriwether County are in poor condition and continue to deteriorate. Where, as here,
    
    there is no evidence of intentional discrimination and the Plan is consistent with the obligation to
    
    eliminate any vestiges of past de jure segregation to the extent practicable, we agree with the
    
    district court that the economically feasible Plan which has already been approved by the voters of
    
    
    
    
    any new school construction. Plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Gordon, who advocated such alterations to
    achieve a better racial balance, admittedly did not consider such a practical sentiment in the
    course of his evaluation. Gordon Deposition at 134. Much more in keeping with the proper
    balance of practicality and a school board’s affirmative obligation to move forward with projects
    without perpetuating the dual system is the poignant testimony of the Chairman of the School
    Board, Mr. Hicks. Though a long proponent of consolidation, Hicks recognized that the Plan
    represented a sensible, yet hard-won political compromise by which all races benefitted:
    
                    I think the first priority there’s never any question, everybody on the
           board unanimously from day one has always known [that] Luthersville/McCrary
           is our biggest need . . . [T]he board members from the south and the north have
           consistently, said, if we don’t do anything else, that elementary will be built. So
           that was the first priority under anybody’s plan . . . The [Greenville] high school
           had to be the second priority to get a plan period. To get unanimous board
           approval, the high school had to be the second priority. That was the way the
           plan developed. For the folks to salvage something from this ten years [of
           litigation], that high school had to be the second priority. So then it just comes
           down to how much you’re talking about. If you’re talking twelve million dollars
           or a limited amount of money, there’s only one more project and Warm Springs is
           the oldest elementary school we have in the county. It’s the oldest physical
           facility we have in the county. Greenville and Woodbury have been – are in
           much better physical shape than the Warm Springs one is and if you want to go
           back and look, the oldest renovated elementary we have in the county, the last
           time renovations were done to any of them, the oldest one is Manchester . . . To
           pass this bond referendum, we have got to have the support in the south part of
           the county [the population center]. You’re not going to pass the bond referendum
           without support in the south part of the county.
    
    Hicks Deposition at 75-76.
    
                                                     13
    Meriwether County is constitutionally acceptable, and is consistent with the preexisting court
    
    decrees.
    
           B.      Transportation
    
           The district court also found in response to Plaintiffs’ objections to the Plan’s effects on
    
    transportation that any transportation “disruption(s)” would stem from demographic factors and
    
    not a constitutionally suspect scheme of segregation.15 In so finding, the court was deducing from
    
    Freeman, 503 U.S. at 467, 112 S.Ct. at 1430, that because racial imbalances in attendance zones
    
    resulting from demographics and not prior de jure segregation are not unconstitutional, then
    
    disproportionate transportation burdens stemming from demographic sources are likewise not
    
    unconstitutional.   Again, it is undisputed that Meriwether County’s population center is in its
    
    southern region and that more of the white population resides in this section of the county than the
    
    central or northern sections of the county. Consequently, the fact that white students may be
    
    somewhat less burdened by the transportation scheme is a function of demographics and not a
    
    constitutional violation. In light of Freeman, we cannot say that the district court clearly erred in
    
    so finding.
    
           C.      Faculty/Staff Assignments and Extracurricular Activities
    
           The district court expressly refers to faculty and staff assignments in its order, but
    
    concludes “because no assignments have been made and because faculty and administrators
    
    
    
           15
              As the district court pointed out, because there are no pupil locator maps cataloging
    students by race and residence, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make accurate predictions
    concerning the changes in travel times and distances under the Plan. Thus, there is no actual
    evidence in the record that there will be such disproportion. However, the district court assumed
    arguendo in its evaluation of the Plan that black students in the central and northern areas of the
    county would be disproportionately burdened.
    
                                                      14
    can change from year to year, this court is unwilling to assume an improper assignment of
    
    faculty or administrators based upon the speculations of Dr. Gordon, the government, and
    
    intervenors.” Order at 8. Therefore, the court decided “the more prudent approach is to
    
    wait and see what changes are actually made and then decide whether those changes were
    
    improper.” Id. None of the briefs to this Court address the matter and Plaintiffs’ briefs to
    
    the district court are not particularly helpful either, citing only general concerns that the
    
    Plan will result in excess faculty and that the Plan will not address the racial identifiability
    
    of faculty and administrator assignments. Defendants respond by arguing that it is
    
    premature to criticize the assignments before they have been made. Especially in light of
    
    the lack of adversarial development with respect to faculty and staff assignments, we find
    
    the “wait and see” approach of the district court is not an abuse of discretion. With respect
    
    to extracurricular activities, there was no mention of this Green factor, in the briefs to our
    
    Court or in the briefs to the district court. We assume that the district court also took a
    
    “wait and see” approach with respect to this factor, as it did with the faculty/staff
    
    assignment factor, and we find no abuse of discretion.
    
           D.     Facilities
    
           With respect to the facilities called for under the Plan, Plaintiffs make several
    
    objections. First, they object to the construction priorities in the overall Plan. Under Phase
    
    1, two new consolidated elementary schools would be built: a new North Elementary
    
    School, combining the populations of Luthersville and McCrary school, and a new South
    
    Central Elementary, combining the populations of Manchester Elementary and Warm
    
                                                   15
    Springs. Finally, a new high school was planned for the Greenville area.16 Plaintiffs
    
    contend that Phase 1 of the Plan results in “putting white children first [because it] is easier
    
    to sell to the citizenry that must vote for the bond issue.”17 Brief of United States at 33.
    
    This argument is without merit.
    
           Two out of the three new structures proposed by the Plan would benefit student
    
    populations which would be predominantly black. The new North Elementary School is
    
    
    
           16
               Phase 1 of the Plan is projected to cost around $19 million, with $6 million coming
    from an allocation of state funds, and $13 million to come from the successful September 1996
    bond issue. Phase 2 of the Plan is projected to cost around $8.5 million. Phase 2 entails building
    a new Central Elementary School, combining the populations of Greenville and Woodbury
    Elementary Schools, renovating the former Greenville High School to transform it into a true
    middle school, and renovating Manchester Middle and High Schools. Plaintiffs vigorously
    objected in the district court to Phase 1 of the Plan on the ground that the Board could never
    successfully pass the bond issue necessary to begin Phase 1 construction. Given the
    referendum’s subsequent success, that argument is obviously moot. Now Plaintiffs assert, as
    they did regarding Phase 1, that the funding for Phase 2 is speculative at best and may never be
    locked into place. Because the Board has demonstrated its good faith in steering this Plan
    through the treacherous course of litigation and public debate, we are hesitant to assume that
    Phase 2 will never be pursued. The Board has already accomplished more than Plaintiffs ever
    thought it could by successfully securing financing for Phase 1. Consequently, we will not
    assume that Phase 2 will fail before it has even had the opportunity to be pursued in good faith.
    If it becomes clear the Board has no intention of pursuing Phase 2, the Plaintiffs may petition the
    district court for relief at that juncture.
           17
              Rather than include the new South Elementary School as part of Phase 1, Plaintiffs
    contend that a new Central Elementary School ought to be built as part of Phase 1. Central
    Elementary will combine the present populations of Greenville and Woodbury Elementary
    Schools. However, this would do nothing to redress the severe overcrowding at Warm Springs
    Elementary, where many of the students must attend class in portable units. Under the current
    Plan, a new South Elementary would be built, thus remedying the poor conditions at Warm
    Springs; and a new North Meriwether High school would be built to replace Greenville High
    School, thus allowing students of middle school age from Greenville Elementary to move into
    the former Greenville High School facility. Under the Board’s Plan, no students would have to
    attend school in overcrowded portable units, whereas under Plaintiffs’ proposed course, the
    unfortunate circumstances at Warm Springs would persist.
    
                                                     16
    projected to be 62% black and 37% white and replaces Luthersville Elementary and
    
    McCrary Elementary, which were 55% and 88% black, respectively. The new Greenville
    
    High School is projected to be 80% black, replacing the current Greenville High School
    
    which is 79% black. The only new facility included as part of Phase 1 that is projected to
    
    be majority white is the new South Elementary, which will be 50% white and 49% black.
    
    We fail to see how replacing two predominantly black schools puts white children first.
    
           We refer again to the helpful comments of Mr. Hicks, supra note 14, which indicate
    
    that the construction priorities were determined on the basis of need, not race, with a
    
    watchful eye on what was practicable. The southern elementary schools were the oldest in
    
    the county, and in worse physical shape than the substitute project suggested by Plaintiffs.
    
    We do not believe it was unreasonable for the Board to include the South Elementary
    
    School project in Phase 1. Nor was it unreasonable18 for the Board to consider the fact that
    
    it would enhance the chances of passage of the bond issue for Phase 1 to include a fair
    
    allocation of resources to the southern portion of the county, the population center of the
    
    county. As Mr. Hicks noted, the bond issue (and thus the construction of the two
    
    predominantly black schools) was likely to fail without a fair allocation for the southern
    
    population center. We reject Plaintiffs’ argument that this well-discussed and well-
    
    bargained political compromise runs afoul of the constitutional guideposts set out in Green.
    
    Indeed, it is Green that counsels us to recall “[t]hat the burden on a school board today is to
    
    
           18
              The district court’s finding that these decisions were reasonable and the finding that
    these decisions reflected no racial discrimination have ample support in the record.
    
                                                     17
    come forward with a plan that promises realistically to work, and promises realistically to
    
    work now.” Green, 
    391 U.S. 497
    , 88 S.Ct. at 1694. We agree with the district court that the
    
    Board, after twelve years of debate, has produced a Plan that honors its desegregation
    
    obligations under the 1973 Order and under the case law, and successfully incorporates a
    
    bond issue for Phase 1 construction which has already passed.
    
           Plaintiffs also object to the physical plant of the proposed new North Meriwether
    
    High School. Specifically, they allege that the new high school, though technologically
    
    superior, will lack important features that the old Greenville High School possesses, such as
    
    a ballfield and an auditorium. The Board counters that the architectural plans it presented
    
    to the district court demonstrate the presence of both a gymnasium and a cafetorium.19
    
    Thus, the only feature that the new North Meriwether County High School would lack is a
    
    ballfield with stadium seating. The Board provides a reasonable explanation for this
    
    absence: the field at the former Greenville high school can be utilized until a new one can
    
    be financed. In any event, we find that the Plaintiffs’ argument in this regard fails to
    
    demonstrate the sort of constitutional transgression forbidden under Green and its progeny.
    
    
    
                                         V. CONCLUSION
    
           Having carefully considered the district court’s order, the Board’s Plan, the
    
    Plaintiffs’ objections to both, and the school district’s response thereto, we conclude that
    
    
           19
              Apparently, a “cafetorium” employs a multipurpose design, incorporating auditorium
    features, and functions as both a cafeteria and, when appropriate, as an auditorium.
    
                                                  18
    the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the Board’s Plan. We agree with
    
    the judgment of the district court that the Meriwether County School Board in pursuing its
    
    proposed Facilities Plan district has complied with the constitutional mandate of Green to
    
    the extent practicable. Accordingly, we hold that the school district has addressed the
    
    significant and unquestioned needs of its antiquated system, while striking the proper
    
    balance between its desegregation obligations and its obligation to the citizens of
    
    Meriwether County to come forward with a realistic plan that promises to work, and to
    
    work now. We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the
    
    Plan; the Plan is consistent with the Board’s desegregation obligations under the previous
    
    orders and with the relevant case law outlining the Board’s constitutional obligations.
    
           The judgment of the district court approving the Plan is therefore
    
    AFFIRMED.
    
    
    
    
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