High court deals setback to Reagan's antibusing plan

The US Supreme Court is sticking to its guns on school busing. The court Monday rejected a Justice Department challenge to a Nashville, Tenn., desegregation plan that requires elementary-school children to be bused to achieve a racial mix.

The decision is a setback to the Reagan administration, which contends that busing doesn't work and had urged the court to reconsider its 1971 decision approving busing. Rejection of the Nashville case jeopardizes the administration's hope of dismantling busing programs in other major cities, including Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Memphis.

Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds said the court's refusing to hear the Nashville case in ''no way indicates that the legal issue of mandatory busing is closed.

''It is not unusual for the Supreme Court to leave the development of this area of the law to lower federal courts. It is there that we have and will continue to concentrate our efforts,'' he said in a statement.

Nashville schools have been in court for 26 years over desegregation, and are now operating under a 1971 order requiring crosstown busing.

The US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, last summer struck down part of a district court decision exempting young children in Nashville schools from being bused. But the federal appeals court in Cincinnati disagreed, saying that across-the-board busing was required by the high court's 1971 decision in the North Carolina case of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education.

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