The Justice Department's chief civil rights enforcer made it clear yesterday that the Reagan administration will abandon several traditional tools, such as school busing and hiring quotas, for fighting discrimination in education and employment.
In his first session with reporters since being confirmed by the Senate last month, Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds echoed Attorney General William French Smith's promise that the department will enforce the nation's civil rights laws vigorously.
Like Smith, he also said the new administration will seek remedies other than busing in school cases and hiring quotas or goals in employment discrimination cases.
Reynolds, 39, a Washington lawyer with little civil rights experience, signaled the policy shift when asked about hiring goals in employment cases. He said he plans to limit remedies to individuals who can prove they were harmed by discriminatory action.
In the past, Justice lawyers often have reached settlements with communities that included goals of hiring minority employes until the work force mirrored the proportion of the minority population.
Reynolds said yesterday, however, that his idea of goals and timetables applies to efforts to recruit greater numbers of minorities, so that applicant pools are representative of the minority population.
A spokesman said later that, while there will be no specific hiring goal, Justice will check to make sure hirings are about equal to the applicant pools.
Reynolds dodged questions about policy directions on extension of the Voting Rights Act and other issues.
He said the Civil Rights Division will consider magnet schools and voluntary transfers of whites to minority schools as alternatives to busing in school discrimination cases.
He noted, for example, that the department recently reached a settlement with the Marshall, Tex., school system on a discrimination case filed at the end of the Carter administration. The consent decree involves no more busing than is necessary now to transport students in the rural district, he said.
In several busing cases, federal judges have ordered the remedy because magnet schools and voluntary programs had been ineffective in desegregating the local schools.
In higher education cases, Reynolds said the department no longer will insist that university systems eliminate popular programs at predominantly white colleges in an effort to force white students to enroll at black schools. Instead, he said, his lawyers will seek to enhance programs at traditionally black schools.
Reynolds has been negotiating recently with the state of Louisiana, trying to settle a university discrimination suit filed during the Nixon administration.
He also repeated his concerns about the constitutionality of efforts in Congress to take jurisdiction from the Supreme Court on certain social issues such as busing and school prayer.