Missouri v. Jenkins: The First Round
In 1977, the KCMSD, its school board, and the children of two school board members sued the state, surrounding suburban school systems, and various federal agencies, alleging that the defendants created and continued a system of racially segregated schools in the Kansas City area. A federal trial court realigned the parties, making the KCMSD a defendant, finding that the state and KCMSD were liable for operating a segregated school system. The plaintiffs had sought an order affecting the entire metropolitan area. However, the court limited its orders to the area within the borders of KCMSD while dismissing the surrounding school systems and federal agencies from the litigation.
In its first remedial order in 1985, a federal trial court directed officials to reduce class sizes and to expand expensive programs, such as full-day kindergarten, summer school, early childhood offerings, and tutoring programs to increase educational opportunities for all students in the KCMSD. In addition, the court ordered cash grants for schools and a return of all schools to an AAArating, the highest state accreditation standard. These improvements cost over $220 million.
When the case first arrived before the Supreme Court, the justices held that the Eleventh Amendment did not prohibit the award of attorney fees and that they could include payments for the work of paralegals, clerks, and recent law school graduates (Missouri v. Jenkins I, 1989).