The five-member Laurel City Council unanimously passed an emergency resolution yesterday opposing any attempt by the Prince George's County Board of Education to appeal to the Supreme Court a lower court ruling ordering the county schools to desegregate. The resolution also calls upon board members who support the appeal to submit their resignations if the appeal is carried through and then fails.
School board members are expected to vote formally this week on whether to appeal a circuit court ruling upholding a 1983 desegregation order by U.S. District Judge Frank A. Kaufman.
Last week, in a private meeting, the board members determined that they were divided 4 to 4 on whether to appeal. The ninth member, board Chairman Angelo Castelli, said he was undecided.
Only a week before the closed-door session, it appeared that agreement was close on a desegregation plan. The school board had submitted a plan for magnet schools to Kaufman that he had agreed to, at least tentatively.
Board members who then asked for an appeal said the move would not stall implementation of the magnet-school plan. They said they only want the appeal to lead to a decision that the school system is legally integrated, thereby ending Kaufman's jurisdiction.
Laurel Mayor Robert J. DiPietro said yesterday that he and the council are "adamantly opposed to any action taken by the board" to appeal the desegregation case, already 13 years old, any further.
DiPietro said that a resolution of the county school's desegregation problem can come only by various parties working together and "not by going to the Supreme Court."
About 50 parents and other community residents assembled at the meeting yesterday in the Town Hall of Laurel, which, with a population of about 12,100, is one of the county's larger communities.
"I think the school board's action may be an attempt to save face from having acted irresponsibly in the past," said Shirley Dodson, a parent of two and a Prince George's teacher.
Castelli said that he did not know what significance the Laurel resolution would have in the school board's decision.
Those who oppose the appeal say that it will only act to undermine the magnet-school proposal.
"Money is needed from the city, state and federal levels to fund the plan. Who is going to be willing to support a plan that the board . . . is not in support of?" asked James Garrett, of the Black Coalition Against Unnecessary Busing.
DiPietro said that board members who support the appeal should resign if it fails because they would not be credible negotiating partners in further discussions.