The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today denied Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s request for a stay of a lower court order that said the state couldn’t force four South Arkansas school districts to allow interdistrict transfers.

Camden Fairview, Lafayette County, Junction City and Hope said they were bound by federal court desegregation cases to resist open transfers because they promote segregation. The state, after abiding by that for several years, refused the districts an exemption last year and the transfers have been overwhelmingly used by white parents to leave for districts with larger white percentages.

The districts sued and federal Judge Susan Hickey ruled that they should be allowed to continue exempting themselves from the state school transfer law.

Since then, the state Education Department has refused to explicitly grant the exemption to the four districts for the next school year and Rutledge asked for a stay of Hickey’s ruling during an appeal. Such a stay is rarely granted where the state can’t demonstrate it would be harmed. Hickey ruled that the state had not demonstrated that and denied a stay. Rutledge then asked the 8th Circuit for a stay. It refused in a one-sentence order today.

So now, says Allen Roberts, attorney for the four districts, the state Board of Education must formally exempt the districts from interdistrict transfers in the 2019-20 school year or face a contempt of court proceeding.

I’ve asked the state Education Department if it will exempt the four districts or defy the court orders.

“The smart thing for the state board to do is to tell the department to write the districts and tell them they’re exempt,” Roberts said.

UPDATE: A state spokesman said: “We will respect the decision of the court.”

As usual, a non-response response from Rutledge’s office:


The Attorney General is reviewing the lawsuit and will determine next steps.