204 F.Supp. 568 (E.D.La. 1962), Civ. A. 3630, Bush v. Orleans Parish School Bd.

Docket NºCiv. A. 3630
Citation204 F.Supp. 568
Party NameBush v. Orleans Parish School Bd.
Case DateApril 03, 1962
CourtUnited States District Courts, 5th Circuit, Eastern District of Louisiana

Page 568

204 F.Supp. 568 (E.D.La. 1962)

Earl Benjamin BUSH et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

ORLEANS PARISH SCHOOL BOARD et al., Defendants, Connie Reed, a minor, by Gerald Rener, her guardian and next friend, et al., Plaintiff-Intervenors.

Civ. A. No. 3630-B.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana.

April 3, 1962.

Jack Greenberg, New York City, A. P. Tureaud, Ernest N. Morial, New Orleans, La., James M. Nabrit, III, New York City, for plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors.

Samuel I. Rosenberg, New Orleans, La., for Orleans Parish School Board.

WRIGHT, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, now supported by 101 additional intervenors, petition this court for further relief in this long pending litigation. 1 The further relief requested is based on plaintiffs' allegations that the defendant, Orleans Parish School Board, has not complied with this court's order of May 16, 1960, with respect to desegregation of the public schools of New Orleans. In addition, they maintain that the segregated schools operated for Negroes by the Board cannot pass the separate but equal test of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 16 S.Ct. 1138, 41 L.Ed. 256.

Page 569

On May 16, 1960, when the defendant failed to file a plan of desegregation 2 of the Orleans Parish schools are ordered by this court, this court filed one. The court's plan simply provides that beginning September, 1960, all children entering the first grade may attend either the formerly all white public schools nearest their homes or the formerly all Negro schools nearest their homes, at their option. There is a further provision for transfers not based on consideration of race. 3

The Orleans Parish School Board maintains a dual system of segregated schools based on race. 4 This segregation is accomplished by dividing the city geographically into Negro school districts and white school districts based upon the residence and race of the children attending such schools. On the opening of school in September, 1960, instead of complying with the court's desegregation order, the Board announced a testing program 5 for any first grade child electing a school other than the one to which he would be automatically assigned under the Board's segregated system. 6 This program involved four steps consisting of (1) of review of the 'transfer' application form and verification of the information contained therein, (2) testing of the petitioning pupils to determine 'scholastic aptitude,' 'intelligence or ability' and 'adequacy of pupil's academic preparation or readiness for admission to school or curricula,' (3) 'test interpretation and personal evaluation to consider' ten listed criteria relating generally to education, psychology, home environment and health, and (4) a 'general administrative review and preparation of recommendation to Orleans Parish School Board to consider' all of the information collected, the 'choice and interests' of pupil, as well as the possibility or threat of friction of disorder among pupils or others, and the possibility of breach of peace or ill will or economic retaliation within the community. 7 The bulletin announcing the program further provides that pupils permitted to transfer under these procedures and criteria 'may be reassigned to the school to which they are assigned by virtue of their place of residence by order of the Orleans Parish School Board is they do not make satisfactory adjustment to the newly assigned

Page 570

situation.' 8 The announcement further requires the separation of pupils by sex in each class desegregated under this program.

An analysis of the test program demonstrates that the Board, instead of allowing children entering the first grade to make an election as to the schools they would attend, assigned all children to the racially segregated schools in their residential areas. Then, after being so assigned, each child wishing to exercise his right to elect pursuant to the court's plan of desegregation was subjected to the testing program. No children other than first grade were required to take the tests. Pursuant to this testing program, four Negro first grade children out of 134 applicants were allowed to 'transfer' to the white schools nearest their homes during the school year 1960-61, and eight Negro children of 66 applying successfully overcame the hurdles of the 1961-62 testing program. Consequently, 12 of the 13,000-odd Negro children entering the first grade in the years 1960-61 and 1961-62 were admitted to and are attending 'white' schools.

The Board maintains that it was justified in applying the pupil placement law to the desegregation order of this court in an effort to make certain that the children applying to 'transfer' were intellectually and psychologically acceptable in the schools they sought to attend. The Board makes no explanation for its failure to test all children seeking to enter the first grade, or any other grade, in an effort to determine whether or not they were intellectually and psychologically acceptable in the segregated schools to which they were automatically assigned. This failure to test all pupils is the constitutional vice in the Board's testing program. However valid a pupil placement act may be on its face, it may not be selectively applied. 9 Moreover, where a school system is segregated, 10 there is no constitutional basis whatever for using a pupil placement law. 11 A pupil placement law may only be validly applied in an integrated school system, and then only where no consideration is based on race. 12 To assign children to a segregated school system and then require them to pass muster under a pupil

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placement law is discrimination in its rawest form.

The plaintiffs, together with intervenors, also complain of the crowded conditions in the defendant's Negro schools, as compared to the white. The evidence shows that 5,540 Negro elementary school children are on platoon, but no white. The evidence shows further that the average class size in the Negro elementary schools is 38.3 pupils compared to 28.7 in the white, 13 that the pupil-teacher ratio in the elementary schools is 36.0 to 1 for Negro, 26.1 to 1 for white, and that Negro classes are conducted in classrooms converted from stages, custodians quarters, libraries and teachers' lounge rooms, while similar...

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