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The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971) stands out for three reasons. First, Swann was the Court's last unanimous opinion in a major school desegregation case. Second, in Swann, for the first time, the justices considered the propriety of and upheld a court-ordered busing plan designed to end de jure segregation in public schools. Third, in Swann, the Court addressed other permissible means of achieving desegregation, including rezoning of attendance zones, limited use of racial quotas, and reassignment of educational personnel.

Facts of the Case

Swann began in 1965 when a group of plaintiffs unsuccessfully sued their school board over its geographic zoning and free transfer policy. A federal trial court in North Carolina ruled in favor of the school board ...

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