305 F.Supp. 472 (N.D.Ohio 1969), C 69-209, Guzick v. Drebus

Docket Nº:C 69-209.
Citation:305 F.Supp. 472
Party Name:Thomas GUZICK, Jr., a minor, by his next friend and father, Thomas Guzick, Plaintiff. v. Donald L. DREBUS, Principal of Shaw High School and Nelson F. Leist, Supt., East Cleveland Board of Education, Robert Henderson, Charles Hamilton, Leslie Reardon, Erwin Schrader and G. Duke Beasley, as constituting the East Cleveland Board of Education, Defenda
Case Date:April 02, 1969
Court:United States District Courts, 6th Circuit, Northern District of Ohio

Page 472

305 F.Supp. 472 (N.D.Ohio 1969)

Thomas GUZICK, Jr., a minor, by his next friend and father, Thomas Guzick, Plaintiff.


Donald L. DREBUS, Principal of Shaw High School and Nelson F. Leist, Supt., East Cleveland Board of Education, Robert Henderson, Charles Hamilton, Leslie Reardon, Erwin Schrader and G. Duke Beasley, as constituting the East Cleveland Board of Education, Defendants.

No. C 69-209.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division.

April 2, 1969

Page 473

Jerry Gordon, Cleveland, Ohio, for plaintiff.

Charles Clarke, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, W. C. Hartman, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, and Richard F. Stevens, Meyers, Stevens & Rea, Cleveland, Ohio, for defendants.


LAMBROS, District Judge.

This is an action arising under the provisions of Title 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. This section provides as follows:

'Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.'

The complaint, in summary, alleges the following: Thomas Guzick, Jr., is 17 years of age and is a student at Shaw High School in East Cleveland, Ohio. Defendant, Donald L. Drebus, is the principal of Shaw High School. The other defendants are: Nelson F. Leist, Superintendent of the East Cleveland School District; and Robert Henderson, Charles Hamilton, Leslie Reardon, Erwin Schrader, and George Beasley, who are members of the East Cleveland Board of Education. Plaintiff desires to wear a button on his lapel while attending school at Shaw High. The button reads:

'April 5 Chicago

G.I. Civilian


Demonstration, Student Mobilization Committee'

He wore this button to school on March 11, 1969. The school principal, Mr. Drebus, ordered the plaintiff to remove the button. Upon the plaintiff's refusal to remove the button, Mr. Drebus suspended him from Shaw High School until such time as he returned to school without the button. The complaint alleges that the acts of Mr. Drebus in suspending the plaintiff have been ratified, approved, or encouraged by the other defendants in their official capacities. Plaintiff alleges that his right to wear this button is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and that his suspension deprives him of rights guaranteed by the Constitution; and, further, that his suspension was without just cause, without a hearing, and without due process of law. The

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complaint alleges that similar buttons are being worn in other high schools in the Cleveland area, and that the acts of the defendants denying the plaintiff his right to wear a similar button deprives him of the equal protection of the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The complaint seeks a temporary restraining order enjoining the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff's right to wear the button while attending school and from refusing to reinstate the plaintiff. It also seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction directed toward securing the same relief. The complaint further seeks a declaratory judgment that any rule or regulation of the East Cleveland Board of Education proscribing the wearing of such buttons is unconstitutional, and the complaint further seeks damages in the amount of.$1000.00 per day for every day the plaintiff is compelled to miss school and for costs and attorneys' fees.

This action was filed with this Court on March 17, 1969. On Tuesday, March 18, the Court heard arguments on the plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order, as described above. At that time counsel for the defendants represented to the Court that the School Board had a general policy against the wearing of buttons and other insignia and that the School Board feared a disruption in the normal school activities if any buttons were permitted to be worn. The Court was of the opinion that if these representations were true and if the Court were to restrain the defendants pending a hearing on the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, disruption of the normal activities of Shaw High School would occur. The defendants also represented that they were willing to permit the plaintiff to return to classes without his button; and, under these circumstances, the Court concluded that it was more likely that irreparable harm would befall the defendants in the event this Court issued a temporary restraining order than would befall the plaintiff if the Court declined to issue a temporary restraining order. Therefore, the Court overruled the plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order and set this matter down for a hearing on the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction at the earliest possible date.

On March 21, 1969, this Court began an evidentiary hearing on the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. That evidentiary hearing continued until Wednesday, March 26. More than 30 witnesses were heard; numerous exhibits were submitted to the Court. On the basis of the evidence adduced at that hearing, the Court makes the following determination.


Certain of the factual issues in this case were not disputed. Many, however, were. The Court, as in other cases of this nature, is called upon to weigh the testimony of the various witnesses to determine what the true facts are and what the actual occurrences were. Such a determination is always difficult; but it is particularly difficult where, as here, there are direct conflicts in the testimony of the various witnesses.

The Court must give deserving weight to the testimony of each witness. In performing this task, the Court must assess the credibility of each witness. The Court has considered in great depth the demeanor of each witness upon the stand, his opportunity to observe the incidents which he described, and his opportunity to come by the knowledge which he claimed. The Court has also considered the interest and/or bias of each witness and his inclination as to the proper outcome of this case.

In a case where there are substantial factual disputes raised by the testimony of the various witnesses, their demeanor on the stand and their relative degree of knowledge are particularly important. The Court has, therefore, reviewed the evidence and its impressions of the various witnesses and has reached its considered judgment as to the actual facts in this case.

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The city of East Cleveland, Ohio, is a suburb located east of Cleveland. At one time, it was an almost exclusively white community. In the last few years, however, many negroes have moved into the community from Cleveland, which is immediately adjoining; and East Cleveland now is a racially mixed community.

The East Cleveland Board of Education governs and regulates the operations of the East Cleveland schools. The City has a number of elementary schools; it has on junior high school, Kirk Junior High; and its only high school is Shaw High.

Shaw High School is not a new institution. It has served the East Cleveland community for at least fifty years. The main school building is old; and as a result of the increased number of students, other buildings have been added to Shaw High. Certain of the other buildings are attached to the main school building by a series of tunnels; at least one of the school buildings is not attached to the main building at all.

Because of the layout of the various buildings at Shaw High School, traffic patterns are bad. Since many of the buildings are old, the corridors, originally built for fewer students, are now congested. There are presently 1900 students at Shaw. The tunnels, in particular, are very crowded. The students are often required to walk long distances to their next class. Some chose to walk outside the building, even in inclement weather, to avoid the congestion and inconvenience of a trip through the tunnels.

Approximately 70% Of the students at Shaw High School are black. Approximately 30% Are white. There has been considerable friction between the students of the two races. There has also been friction among students of the same race. Nonetheless, Shaw High School has not, as yet, had a serious racial disturbance.

At the same time, many other high schools in the area have had such disturbances. At John Hay High, a predominately black school approximately one mile to the west, there have been repeated disturbances; and, in fact, John Hay High School was forced to close for a number of days as a result of these. East High School and Glenville High School have also had serious disturbances. East High was also required to close. Both of these high schools have a high percentage of black students.

Collinwood High School, which is racially mixed, has had serious disturbances. Indeed, these required the closing of the school at one time this year.

So far there have been no crippling disruptions at Shaw High. The situation, however, is not peaceful.

Although there have been no crippling disruptions of school activities, Shaw High has a significant, perhaps serious, discipline problem. Students have been threatened in both the men's rooms and locker rooms, among other places. These threats have often been accompanied by violence. Money has been extorted from students under these circumstances. The problem has been of such significance that the P.T.A. and other groups in the...

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