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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The fight to continue one of the nation's longest-running school busing program ended at the Supreme Court on Monday.

The court did not comment in turning away an appeal from black parents in Charlotte, N.C., who wanted to continue the desegregation program begun in 1969. The court also rejected a related lawsuit from white parents, who won a lower court order ending the busing program. They wanted the high court to order the school system to pay their lawyers' fees.

The 105,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system was the first major urban district in the nation to use busing to achieve racial balance. The court-ordered busing plan was the result of a 1965 lawsuit by black parents, who claimed the school district had not done enough to comply with the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision desegregating public schools.

The Supreme Court signed off on the Charlotte program in 1971, the first time it had authorized forced busing to desegregate what black parents called a dual system of poor schools for blacks and better schools for whites.

The busing controversies of the 1970s have faded, and the court has stayed away from reviving them. It turned down a similar case from Florida last year.

In other action Monday, the court:

• Agreed to settle a trademark fight involving the lingerie catalog Victoria's Secret.

• Refused to hear an appeal from Vanessa Leggett, the Texas crime writer jailed for more than five months for refusing to turn over interview notes about a society murder.

• Refused to consider the legality of voting by mail in Oregon, which has eliminated most polling places. Voters have multiple days, not just one, to make their choices.

• Turned down an appeal from a California hospital that fired a woman whose sometimes hours-long primping rituals repeatedly made her late. The woman had won a lower court judgment giving her protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

• Passed up a chance to decide whether states have wide discretion to keep crude or contentious messages off personalized license plates. That means Mary Lewis gets to keep her Missouri plate, "ARYAN-1."

The Charlotte busing plan was supposed to end a system that theoretically allowed parents some choice of schools but in practice had left 14,000 black children in segregated schools.

Similar plans were later imposed on other school districts across the nation.

White parents sued to end Charlotte's busing in 1997, arguing that it was harming white students while failing to help the majority of black students. A federal judge agreed, ruling that the school system had achieved the goals of racial balance.

On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that finding, meaning the busing would continue. But the full, 11-member court agreed to take a second look.

In September, the appeals court ruled 7-4 against continued race-based busing. The decision ended a system of busing inner city students to mostly white suburban schools and suburban students to the inner city.

The ruling cleared the way for the school's substitute plan that sends most children to nearby schools but allows parents to pick other schools if there is room.

The appeals court also rejected the white parents' request that the district pay their nearly $1.5 million legal fees.

In their appeal, attorneys for the black parents argued that the schools have become resegregated, with black students concentrated in a few schools.

The district built schools in largely white neighborhoods - making it hard to integrate them - and ignored the physical state of schools in black neighborhoods, the appeal claimed.

The cases are Capacchione v. Belk, 01-1094 and Belk v. Capacchione, 01-1122.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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