328 F.Supp. 1197 (E.D.Ark. 1971), LR-68-C-151, Davis v. Board of Ed. of North Little Rock, Arkansas

Docket Nº:LR-68-C-151.
Citation:328 F.Supp. 1197
Party Name:Robert J. DAVIS et al. (Formerly Carnell Graves et al.), Plaintiffs, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF NORTH LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS, et al., Defendants.
Case Date:June 25, 1971
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, Eastern District of Arkansas

Page 1197

328 F.Supp. 1197 (E.D.Ark. 1971)

Robert J. DAVIS et al. (Formerly Carnell Graves et al.), Plaintiffs,



No. LR-68-C-151.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division.

June 25, 1971

John W. Walker and Philip E. Kaplan, Little Rock, Ark., for plaintiffs.

Robert V. Light and G. Ross Smith, Little Rock, Ark., for defendants.

Page 1198

Memorandum Opinion

HENLEY, Chief Judge.

On June 24, 1971, this Court entered its most recent decree in subject case dealing with the racial integration of the public schools in the City of North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. In its decree the Court stated that it was preparing and would shortly file a memorandum opinion incorporating its findings of fact and conclusions of law relevant to the issues considered by it. The Court now does so.

By way of introduction, the Court will make some historical comments about the case.

The North Little Rock Public Schools were first faced with desegregation litigation when this suit was commenced by Negro school patrons in 1968. As of that time students were being assigned to schools on the basis of freedom of choice, a system rendered impermissible in a district like North Little Rock by the 1968 decisions of the Supreme Court in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430, 88 S.Ct. 1689, 20 L.Ed.2d 716; Raney v. Board of Education of Gould School District, 391 U.S. 443, 88 S.Ct. 1697, 20 L.Ed.2d 727; Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of City of Jackson, 391 U.S. 450, 88 S.Ct. 1700, 20 L.Ed.2d 733. Under the freedom of choice method of student assignments the North Little Rock schools were essentially segregated at all grade levels, and staff and faculty were also essentially segregated.

As a result of the filing of this suit the District came forward with desegregation plans in 1969. The District proposed originally to desegregate its secondary schools by assignments of secondary grade students on the basis of geographical attendance zones but desired to continue to use freedom of choice for elementary school students. The plan also called for only token faculty desegregation.

On April 29, 1969, the Court filed an opinion and entered a decree which approved the District's plan of assigning secondary grade students to schools but which disapproved the plan as it affected faculty and elementary school students. Graves v. Board of Education, E.D.Ark., 299 F.Supp. 843 (1969), hereinafter called Graves I. The Court's decree enjoined the Board from maintaining further an unconstitutional dual school system, approved the proposed attendance zones for senior and junior high school students, and disapproved the District's plan as far as the elementary schools and faculty were concerned. The Board was directed to produce a new plan by May 15 dealing further with elementary student body and faculty desegregation.

The new plan was filed and was considered by the Court in an opinion filed on July 25, 1969, Graves v. Board of Education, E.D.Ark., 302 F.Supp. 136 (1969), hereinafter called Graves II. The Court was not satisfied with and did not approve the plan either as it applies to elementary assignments or as it applied to staff and faculty desegregation. However, the Court decided to permit the District to operate under it for the 1969-1970 school year only.

It was clear to the Court that the May 1969 plan which provided for the assignment of elementary students on the basis of geographical attendance zones geared to the neighborhood school concept would not and could not, in view of segregated housing patterns in North Little Rock, disestablish racially identifiable elementary schools in the District, and that such an objective could not be achieved except by the massive transportation of large numbers of elementary students to and from schools substantially distant from their homes. 1

In both Graves I and Graves II the Court expressed its opposition to 'busing' of small children long distances

Page 1199

twice a day for no purpose other than to achieve racial balance in the District's elementary schools, and expressed the view that the Constitution did not require such busing for that purpose. The Court also called attention to the fact that financially and logistically the District was not in any position to undertake large scale transportation of students and to the further fact that existing public transportation facilities in North Little Rock were inadequate to the task of transporting large numbers of elementary school children to and from school each day. And the Court also pointed to the lack of clear appellate guidelines as to how much in the way of integration local school districts were constitutionally required to achieve.

On the same day on which it decided Graves II the Court also handed down what may have been the last of the long series of decisions designed to eliminate segregation in the schools of the Dollarway School District in Jefferson County, Arkansas. Cato v. Parham, E.D.Ark., 302 F.Supp. 129 (1969). In Graves II the Court distinguished the situation existing at Dollarway from the situation existing in North Little Rock, and the results reached in the two cases were different.

It had been the expectation, indeed the hope, of the Court in deciding Graves II and Cato that one or both decisions would be appealed, and that the appeal or appeals would produce the guidelines mentioned in Graves II. As things turned out, there was no appeal from either Graves I or Graves II. An appeal was taken in Cato, but the appeal was dismissed in June 1970 without any action having been taken on it by the Court of Appeals.

In May 1970 the Court of Appeals handed down its decision in the Little Rock school case reversing a decision of the late Judge Gordon E. Young which had approved in 1969 a desegregation plan submitted by the Little Rock School Board. Clark v. Board of Education of Little Rock, 8 Cir., 426 F.2d 1035 (1970). Upon remand the case fell to the docket of the undersigned so that he is now required to deal with both North Little Rock and Little Rock.

Following the remand of Clark both cases were considered by the Court in the summer of 1970. In the instant case a report had been filed by the District on July 17, and it was dealt with a month later in an unpublished memorandum opinion which may be called Graves III. In that opinion the Court pointed out preliminarily that appellate opinions handed down by the Court of Appeals for this Circuit since Graves II, including Clark, had continued to be lacking in guidelines that were particularly helpful in dealing with districts like North Little Rock and Little Rock.

On the merits the Court recognized that with respect to the rapidly approaching commencement of the 1970-71 school year the elementary schools would remain about as segregated as they had ever been but taking the same approach that it had taken the year before the Court decided to permit the District to assign elementary students to schools on the basis of geographical zones for the 1970-71 school year. The Court again referred to the absence of guidelines and again expressed its opposition to massive transportation of students merely to achieve racial balance.

As to staff and faculty, the Court found that substantial progress in that area had been made, and that none of the schools of the District, whether elementary or secondary, could be identified racially on the basis of classroom teacher assignments. The Court found that on this phase of the case the principal complaint of plaintiffs was that as integration proceeded Negro supervisory personnel and coaches would suffer from the standpoint of status and perhaps financially.

Page 1200

However, the Court considered that the problem about Negro supervisors and coaches was of less immediate importance than the problem of the integration of student bodies and class room teachers. And the Court was not willing to disturb staff, athletic or faculty assignments for the approaching school year.

At about the same time that it decided Graves III, the Court also handed down a similar decision in the Little Rock case. Appeals were promptly taken in both cases. The Court of Appeals deferred ruling on the appeals pending decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in certain desegregation cases pending before it from other Circuits.

On April 20 of this year the Supreme Court handed down its decisions in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S.Ct. 1267, 28 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971); Davis v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County, 402 U.S. 33, 91 S.Ct. 1289, 28 L.Ed.2d 577 (1971); North Carolina State Board of Education v. Swann, 402 U.S. 43, 91 S.Ct. 1284, 28 L.Ed.2d 586 (1971); and McDaniel v. Barresi, 402 U.S. 39, 91 S.Ct. 1287, 23 L.Ed.2d 582 (1971). 2 The Court of Appeals promptly remanded both this case and the Little Rock case to this Court for further consideration in the light of the Supreme Court holdings just cited. The Court was directed, among other things, to call for new plans from both Districts, to hold hearings, and to rule on the sufficiency of the plans not later than August 1 of this year.

Both Districts filed new plans on June 8. The Little Rock case was heard on June 16, 17, and 18; this case was heard on June 21. 3 Preliminary consideration of the two plans immediately raised in the mind of the Court a doubt as to the sufficiency of the North Little Rock plan at the elementary school level and a doubt as to the sufficiency of the Little Rock plan...

To continue reading