I like you, Roger. You’re the one person in the county people hate more than they hate me.
- Robert R. Freeman, Superintendent, DeKalb County Schools 
The trial in July of 1987 to determine whether the DeKalb County School System (DCSS) had abolished its dual system of racially segregated schools included testimony from a witness with royal credentials. But hers was no Cinderella story.
Michelle Saunders, Redan’s first black homecoming queen, testified that after she won the 1987 Miss Redan High School pageant, a petition circulated around the school, demanding that her crown be taken away. Racial slurs appeared on the walls. The mood at the school was charged with tension. “When I walk in the door, I can feel the tension. I can feel it when I walk in the classroom. The main problem is the administration won’t address the problem,” Saunders testified.
School officials denied that the situation was as bad as some of the witnesses’ statements indicated. Redan’s principal pointed out that Saunders had been elected homecoming queen by the majority-white senior class. But clearly, the DCSS was concerned about the effects of racial tension. As it had done following the incidents at Columbia High School a decade earlier, the DCSS revised its discipline code to eliminate discretion in punishment and provide for uniform treatment of offenses.
Critics charged that the system was not doing enough to reduce racial tensions. Suggestions that groups be set up to welcome transfer students were not acted upon, and recommendations for sensitivity training for teachers were never implemented. Meanwhile, black students in predominantly white schools tended to feel isolated and unwelcome. Little social interaction took place between students of different races. Unintended slights were often perceived as hostile gestures. Parents debated the value of the M-to-M program in terms of academic benefit versus social cost.
DeKalb’s “Majority-to-Minority” (M-to-M) program allowed students who were members of the majority racial group at their home school to transfer to a school in which their group was in the minority. It had been the primary tool for school desegregation since it had been implemented in 1972. But it had taken several years to become effective due to inadequate notice of its availability, inadequate provision of transportation, and rules that created practical obstacles for families who wished to participate in the program. A 1976 federal court order had mandated changes in the program and had created a biracial committee to oversee the desegregation process. But now concerns were arising about the burden placed on children who spent hours on buses traveling to schools that held classes in trailers due to overcrowding. And there were continuing concerns about the program’s availability to those who wished to participate.
In February of 1988, the Biracial Committee recommended changes to be made in the brochures that explained the M-to-M program. Parents had been relying on word-of-mouth to decide where to send their children, and the most popular schools were becoming seriously overcrowded. In hopes of distributing children more evenly among the county’s schools, the committee recommended printing the number of available spaces at each school on the brochures.
Some efforts to improve conditions at the schools were made more complicated by the court decisions. The swelling student population necessitated the use of trailers as temporary classrooms at many schools, and plans were being drawn up for the construction of new buildings. But due to the earlier ruling in the Redan II case, the DCSS was obligated to consider the desegregative effect of all its decisions concerning facilities. Requests for new trailers had to be approved by the Biracial Committee.
In October of 1987, Superintendent Robert Freeman unveiled a six-year plan for reorganization of the county’s schools and construction of new facilities. The chief features of the plan included the construction of 11 new schools, the consolidation of high school attendance zones, and the creation of junior high schools (most of which would be housed in former high school facilities.)
Details of the consolidation plan concerned some parents. In some cases, high schools would be paired off, and one would be transformed into a junior high school that would feed the senior high. In other cases, a new junior high would be constructed within the attendance zone of an existing high school. This latter strategy seemed most often to be the employed if the high school was predominantly-black, virtually ensuring that the junior high school would be majority-black as well. Activist parents complained that black schools should be paired with white schools, to maximize the desegregative effect of the consolidation scheme. But the rapid changes in the county’s population complicated planning based on racial concerns.
Explaining the difficulty at a public meeting, Freeman acknowledged that a pairing of majority-black Avondale High School with majority-white Clarkston would result in a racially balanced student population today, but within a few years, both schools were predicted to be predominantly-black.
Construction plans also raised some concerns. In 1990, plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the DCSS asked Judge O’Kelley to block construction of two new schools in rapidly-growing southeastern DeKalb until the resegregative effect of the new schools could be determined.
The DCSS had been under instructions since the 1976 court order to assign teachers to all its schools in a manner that would reflect the racial composition of the county as a whole. With the District Court decision of 1988, however, it became evident that the disparate levels of teacher experience at the system’s schools would also have to be corrected.
In July of 1989, the DCSS conducted lotteries to select the veteran teachers that would be moved, then sent out letters to teachers at predominantly-black schools who had less than five years experience, asking if they would be willing to transfer to a predominantly-white school. Of the 140 veteran teachers selected, 114 reported to their new assignments. The remainder resigned or took early retirement.
Citizens complained about the loss to the school system that the resignations would bring and three teacher organizations filed suit to delay the transfers. But the new school year began without a hearing on the issue, and with the transfers accomplished, the issue became moot.
By the mid-1980s, the leading spokesman for the plaintiffs on the ongoing court case was Roger Mills, the white parent of two black daughters enrolled in DeKalb schools. Mills had been involved with the suit since 1976, and was an outspoken advocate for aggressive means to accomplish the integration of the schools, including involuntary busing.
But opposition to this kind of drastic measure was growing among DeKalb’s African American community. In March of 1990, a group of black parents petitioned the court for permission to become plaintiffs. Claiming that the original plaintiffs cared more about racial quotas than quality education, the group argued that the interests of the parents of black schoolchildren in DeKalb were not being represented.
In response to the introduction of the anti-busing parent group into the picture, the DeKalb chapter of the NAACP also sought to join the suit as plaintiffs. While the group had been involved with the case in a supportive role for years, its move now to become a party was seen by some as an effort to head off the kind of settlement that had occurred in Atlanta in 1973. According to a former attorney for the Atlanta office of the NAACP, the “Atlanta Compromise,” in which control of the school system was given to blacks in exchange for a promise not to institute mandatory busing, had been viewed with disfavor by the national office. The DeKalb NAACP would oppose desegregation plans that relied strictly on voluntary action.
After a lengthy hearing in August of 1990, in which the merits of busing were explored at length and an official of the NAACP affirmed in open court her belief that the judge was racist, Judge O’Kelley handed down his ruling on the inclusion of new parties to the class action. The group of anti-busing parents was allowed to join in the lawsuit. As to the NAACP, the judge held that they had failed to prove how their interests were not already being represented in the case. The group led by Roger Mills was allowed to remain a party as well. The judge praised Mills for his determined advocacy, but observed that he had a rather “paternalistic view” of his role.
In February of 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the DCSS’s appeal of the 1989 Eleventh Circuit ruling.
In Part VII, as the DeKalb case moves towards the U.S. Supreme Court, the court further defines the limits of federal authority over desegregation.
 Watts, R. A. (1989, December 14). Desegregation plaintiff, parents tangle at meeting. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. G6.
 Green, C. (1987, July 23). Testimony ends in DeKalb school case. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. C5.
 DeKalb code gets a make-over. (1989, February 18). The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. A22.
 Watts, R. A. (1989, January 8). School program’s reviews mixed: Majority-to minority transfers bring praise, criticism. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, p. Bl. See also Jackson. pp.62-119.
 White, B. (1988, February 25). Make the M-to-M brochures reflect school capacity, committee agrees. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, p. AS.
 White, B. (1987, November 12). School system jumps back into the temporary classroom market. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, p. A15.
 White, B. (1988, February 4). School plans draw a hard dose of criticism. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. AI.
 Watts, R. A. (1990, December 13). Plaintiffs seek to block 2 schools in S. DeKalb. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. A4.
 Watts, R. A. (1989, July 19). 3 teacher groups sue to delay transfers. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. C2. Watts, R. A. (1989, January 8). DeKalb set to shuffle teachers north, south. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. C3. Cowles, A. (1989, August 18). DeKalb’s teachers get settled: First day of school nears; resentment on lottery put aside. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. C1.
 Watts, R. A. (1990, April 5). School system lawyers query plaintiffs’ status in desegregation suit. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. A1.
 Watts, R. A. (1990, August 16). School uses hearing in fight over busing. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. A1.
 Watts, R. A. (1990, August 9). Judge eager for decision on desegregation case plaintiffs. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. D9. Watts, R. A. (1990, August 16). DeKalb NAACP official: Judge racist: Group trying to join desegregation suit. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. A1.
 Watts, R. A. (1990, December 22). Anti-busing parents will join school desegregation lawsuit: 18 DeKalb blacks to be added as plaintiffs. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p, A1.