298 F.Supp. 213 (D.Conn. 1969), Civ. 12624, Norwalk Core v. Norwalk Bd. of Ed.

Docket Nº:Civ. 12624
Citation:298 F.Supp. 213
Party Name:Norwalk Core v. Norwalk Bd. of Ed.
Case Date:March 13, 1969
Court:United States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, District of Connecticut
 
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Page 213

298 F.Supp. 213 (D.Conn. 1969)

NORWALK CORE, a/k/a Norwalk Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality and Roodner Court Fair Rent Association, etc., et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

NORWALK BOARD OF EDUCATION, a/k/a the Board of Education of the City ofNorwalk, Connecticut, Defendant.

Civ. No. 12624.

United States District Court D. Connecticut.

March 13, 1969

Page 214

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jonathan W. Lubell, of Lubell & Lubell, New York City, and Stephen L. Fine, Westport, Conn., for plaintiffs.

Robert H. Rubin, Special Corporation Counsel of City of Norwalk, South Norwalk, Conn., for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AFTER TRIAL

TIMBERS, Chief Judge.

QUESTION PRESENTED

The question here presented is whether defendant Board of Education's operation of elementary schools in Norwalk denies plaintiffs the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Specifically, plaintiffs challenge the Board's action in busing Black and Puerto Rican children out of Black neighborhoods to white neighborhood schools without maintaining Black neighborhood schools and cross-busing white children to such Black neighborhood schools.

After a five day combined hearing on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and trial on the merits, Rule 65(a)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P., the Court holds that the action of the Board of Education in implementing its Policy 5122a does not deny plaintiffs the equal protection of the laws. The evidence adduced clearly demonstrates that the Board created reasonable non-racial classifications to insure that high quality integrated education would be available to all children of Norwalk.

Accordingly, plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction is denied and the complaint is dismissed on the merits.

PARTIES TO THE ACTION

Plaintiffs are two minor children (one Black and one Puerto Rican) suing for themselves and others similarly situated, together with two associations suing as representatives of those of their members with children claimed to be adversely affected by the practices in dispute. The Court heretofore, after a hearing, entered an order permitting the action to be maintained as a class action and directing that notice of pendency of the action be given to all members of the respective classes. 1

Other Black and Puerto Rican families, opposed to the position advocated by plaintiffs, previously moved to intervene as defendants; this motion was denied. 2

Defendant is the Norwalk Board of Education, sued in its official capacity with respect to its duty to provide elementary education for the children of Norwalk.

CLAIMS OF THE PARTIES

Plaintiffs seek (i) a declaratory judgment that their constitutional rights are impaired by the present policies of the Board of Education; (ii) injunctive relief against the continuation

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of these policies; and (iii) a mandatory injunction requiring the Board to submit to the Court a plan reestablishing neighborhood integrated schools in all neighborhoods of Norwalk. Defendant does not dispute the underlying facts, but it denies the inference of racial classification drawn by plaintiffs; and it pleads various special defenses, including plaintiffs' lack of standing, failure to join necessary parties and failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

At an earlier stage, the Court denied, after a hearing, plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order to prevent defendant from closing one of the Norwalk elementary schools pending determination of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. 3

JURISDICTION

This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 (1964), and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) and (4) (1964).

FINDINGS OF FACT

(1) Plaintiff minor children, individually and as representatives of a class, are Black and Puerto Rican children who formerly attended a neighborhood school, or would have attended such a school but for the means by which defendant implemented a policy to promote racial balance in the elementary schools of Norwalk. Plaintiff associations represent those of their members who are parents of children in similar circumstances.

(2) Defendant is the Norwalk Board of Education.

(3) The complaint seeks to enjoin the enforcement, operation and execution of defendant's Policy 5122a by restraining the action of defendant upon the ground that its action contravenes the equal protection clause of the Constitution of the United States.

(4) Neighborhoods formerly served by the Nathaniel Ely, West Avenue and Columbus-Lincoln elementary schools primarily are composed of Black and Puerto Rican residents.

(5) The Population of the City of Norwalk in 1968 was more than 76,000.

(6) During the 1967-68 school year (the most recent time for which such statistics are available), the number of Black and Puerto Rican elementary school children bused to schools out of their respective districts was 775 out of a total Black and Puerto Rican enrollment of 1581; 4 at the same time, the number of white elementary school children bused to schools out of their respective districts was 39 out of a total white enrollment of 7934. 5

(7) It is undisputed that any inconveniences caused by such busing primarily are borne by Black and Puerto Rican elementary school children.

(8) Policy 5122a, 6 adopted by defendant on November 27, 1962 and adhered to continuously up to and including the present time, has as its objective the provision of high quality education through increased intergroup learning experiences. In addition, this policy affirms the advantages of the neighborhood school system, such as a local social structure and avoidance of the financial burdens of transportation.

(9) The District Committee Report of February 7, 1964 (modified March 5, 1964) proposed improvement of racial balance in elementary schools by fixing the non-white enrollment at between 8% And 25% Of the student body.

(10) The District Committee Report further proposed preservation of the neighborhood school concept; it proposed, however, that non-white pupils

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in the Nathaniel Ely, West Avenue and Columbus-Lincoln districts be transported to other elementary schools located in predominantly white neighborhoods.

(11) The District Committee Report also recommended the replacement of the West Avenue facility, the closing of the Lincoln facility, and the closing of the Columbus facility if the white exodus from the latter neighborhood continued.

(12) Implementation of Policy 5122a and the District Committee Report has had the consequences immediately hereinafter set forth.

(13) As to the Nathaniel Ely School (constructed 1957)

(a) By the school year commencing September, 1965, grades 1-6 had been abolished.

(b) During 1968 kindergarten classes were abolished in order to integrate Ely programs with full school programs available at other schools.

(c) A 1963 proposal voluntarily to bus white children out of the overcrowded Brookside School into the Ely School failed because of absence of a favorable response from the white community.

(d) In view of local Black hostility to the location of a vocational arts center in the Ely facility, the facility was leased instead for five years to the Norwalk Community College.

(e) White children who formerly attended Ely were not bused to schools in other neighborhoods, but were transferred to schools in nearby districts.

(14) As to the West Avenue School (constructed 1909)

(a) This school was closed in one step and the students were distributed among schools in other districts.

(b) Abandonment was necessitated by the construction of Route 7 by the State of Connecticut.

(c) The facility was used for one year beyond the anticipated takeover by the State, but concern for pupil safety in the midst of increased construction activity eventually resulted in its abandonment.

(d) A plan for a substitute school in the West Avenue neighborhood never was implemented; instead, additions were constructed at other existing schools.

(e) Approximately 12 to 14 Black children who formerly attended this facility now walk to nearby schools.

(f) Some 39 white children who formerly attended this facility now are bused elsewhere, for reasons other than racial balance.

(15) As to the Columbus and Lincoln Schools

(a) The Lincoln School (constructed 1902) was demolished because it was obsolete: it contained a wooden core, had lavatory facilities only in the basement, did not have an assembly hall or gymnasium, and was not fireproof.

(b) The Columbus School (constructed 1938), located in a predominatly Black and Puerto Rican neighborhood, presently is in use and has the highest non-white percentage enrollment (33%) of all the Norwalk elementary schools.

(c) To improve the racial balance at the Columbus School, white children were transferred from Ely to Columbus.

(16) New facilities have not been constructed in areas of predominantly Black and Puerto Rican population since the construction of the Nathaniel Ely School in 1957.

(17) Whereas the West Avenue School was closed because of the construction of Route 7, and the Lincoln School was closed because it was obsolete, the Ely School was closed solely to achieve racial balance.

(18) Since the closing of the Ely School was motivated more by race related

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factors than the closing of other schools in Norwalk, if plaintiffs cannot prevail with respect to the Ely School, their entire case, of necessity, must fail; therefore, the Court has focused...

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