329 F.Supp. 123 (M.D.Fla. 1971), Civ. 4598, Mims v. Duval County School Bd.

Docket Nº:Civ. 4598
Citation:329 F.Supp. 123
Party Name:Mims v. Duval County School Bd.
Case Date:June 23, 1971
Court:United States District Courts, 11th Circuit, Middle District of Florida
 
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Page 123

329 F.Supp. 123 (M.D.Fla. 1971)

Alta Oveta MIMS et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

The DUVAL COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, a body corporate, et al., Defendants.

Civ. No. 4598.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division.

June 23, 1971

Page 124

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Drew S. Days, III, New York City, Norris D. Woolfork, III, Orlando, Fla., for plaintiffs.

Yardley D. Buckman, Jacksonville, Fla., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND FINAL JUDGMENT

TJOFLAT, District Judge.

This case is here on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. This Court is instructed to enter a final judgment setting forth a plan for the assignment of students in the Duval County school system consistent with the dictates of the Supreme Court's decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S.Ct. 1267, 28 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971). That case requires the immediate elimination of the vestiges of the de jure segregated school system in Duval County.

In undertaking this task, it is necessary to review the history of the school system and the previous attempts to desegregate it. Prior to 1954 it was traditional in Florida, as in other states in the South, to operate separate public schools for blacks and whites. The Florida Constitution of 1885, Article 12, Section 12, F.S.A., specified that 'White and colored children shall not be taught in the same school, but impartial provision shall be made for both.' This concept of 'separate-but-equal' schools was later approved by the Supreme Court of the United States in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 16 S.Ct. 1138, 41 L.Ed. 256 (1896).

Pursuant to the 1885 Constitution, the Florida Legislature, by statute, prohibited the teaching of white persons and Negroes in the same building or classes in any public, private or parochial school. 1 Another enactment required school boards to establish separate attendance zones for white and Negro students. 2 Even though children lived in the same 'neighborhood', they were required to attend separate schools. There was no such thing as a 'neighborhood school' for all the children in the neighborhood. The idea of separation was so entrenched that school superintendents were required 'to keep separately the books * * * used in white and Negro schools.' 3 It was under this body of law that schools were operated in Duval County.

The legal foundation for this tradition of separate schools for the white and Negro races suddenly collapsed on May 17, 1954, with the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. 4 Overturning the Plessy v. Ferguson 'separate-but-equal' doctrine, the Court held that state-imposed segregation of children in public schools, solely on the basis of race, violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Court declared that 'segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children' and 'has a tendency to (retard) the educational and mental development of Negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial(ly)-integrated school system.' 5 A year later, in the second Brown decision, the Court commanded all affected school boards to 'effectuate a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system' and to admit their pupils to schools 'on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed.' 6 Almost six years passed, however, before any steps were taken to integrate the Duval County schools.

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THE DUVAL COUNTY SCHOOL DESEGREGATION CASE

On December 6, 1960, this case commenced under the name: Braxton, et al. v. The Board of Public Instruction of Duval County, Florida, et al. In their complaint the Braxton plaintiffs alleged that Duval County maintained 113 totally segregated schools-- 89 white and 24 black; that the white schools were staffed by white principals and teachers; that the black schools were staffed by Negroes; and that the Superintendent's office was racially structured. The defendant School Board and Superintendent admitted the operation of a dual school system. On the basis of this admission and the facts revealed at the evidentiary hearing, then District Judge Bryan Simpson, in his order of August 21, 1962, found that the School Board and Superintendent

have pursued and are presently pursuing a policy * * * of operating the public school system of Duval County on a racially segregated basis * * *. In the eight (8) years since the first Brown decision (they) have not operated any plan whatever for eliminating racial discrimination in the public school system committed to them for administration.

He went on to hold that

The plaintiffs possess the right, arising under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment * * * to have that system operated on a non-racial basis. This includes * * * the construction, designation, maintenance and operation of a single, non-racial system of schools. The last is to say that no schools may be constructed, designated, maintained and operated * * * for white pupils only, nor may any school be constructed, designated, maintained and operated for Negro pupils only.

Accordingly, the defendants were permanently enjoined from continuing to operate a compulsory bi-racial school system in Duval County and were ordered to submit to the Court 'a complete plan for the removal of dual attendance zones for the system-wide opening of all schools on a non-racial basis.' 7

The School Board's plan, filed with the Court on October 30, 1962, provided for a 'single system of geographical school districts', drawn around the various schools in the county. Beginning September, 1964, the children in the first and second grades in each district were to attend the school in their district. In September, 1965, and every year thereafter, one additional grade would be integrated in each district so that by 1974 all twelve grades would be integrated. At the same time, each child in the county was given 'freedom of choice', that is, the right to 'apply for admission to or transfer to the school of his or her choice.' An order implementing this plan was entered by Judge Simpson on May 8, 1963. 8

On March 19, 1965, plaintiffs complained that under the grade-a-year plan 'only sixty Negro children out of a total Negro student population exceeding 30,000 are attending schools in desegregated situation. (No white student was attending a black school.) Negro high school students living in Baldwin * * * are still required to travel to a Negro high school in Jacksonville, a distance of twenty miles * * *. Negro students are required to travel from * * * Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach to the City of Jacksonville to attend a Negro school although white schools, which they otherwise qualify to attend, are maintained (in Baldwin and) at said beaches * * *.' On July 9, 1965, the defendant School Board and Superintendent consented to the entry of an order accelerating the planned desegregation so that the first four grades of each elementary

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school would be integrated for the 1965-66 school year and all six elementary grades for the 1966-67 school year.

By January, 1967, however, it was apparent that the school board plan was failing to accomplish the objective of establishing a unitary school system. As Judge Simpson found

1. In pursuance of this Court's decree herein dated August 21, 1962, defendants have established geographical school districts or attendance areas for the desegregated grades of the schools of Duval County * * *. It is clear * * * that, in a number of instances, the attendance areas are so defined that they absolutely prevent any school desegregation whatever, or permit only the most 'token' integration.

Moreover, defendants make no initial assignments of white or Negro students to schools attended only or primarily by students of the opposite race. White students residing in the district or attendance area of Negro schools are not required to attend such schools, but they are assigned to or freely permitted transfers to other white schools. Similarly, Negro students residing in the district or attendance area of white schools are not permitted to attend such schools, but they are assigned to, or freely permitted transfers to, other Negro schools.

Negro elementary schools continue to 'feed' into Negro junior high schools which in turn 'feed' into Negro high schools. White elementary schools continue to 'feed' only into white junior high schools, and these in turn, into white high schools. 2. Defendants continue to assign to Negro schools all Negro students not yet desegregated (grades seven through twelve) in accordance with their plan of desegregation. Defendants' desegregation plan provides for desegregation of grades one through six by the present school year, 1966-1967, and thereafter, one additional grade each year until complete desegregation is achieved (that is, the school year 1972-1973 for the twelfth grade).

Negro high school students residing in the township of Baldwin, Florida, are assigned to a Negro high school in Jacksonville, Florida, a distance of twenty miles, although defendants operate a high school in Baldwin for white students. Negro high school students residing in the beach cities of Duval County, and in the New Berlin and Mayport sections of the county, are also assigned to Negro schools further from their homes than are certain white schools * * *. 4. In September of 1965, approximately 118,000 students of which about 30,000 were Negro were enrolled in the public schools of Duval County, Florida. Approximately 137 Negro students (.0045 of the total number of...

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