391 U.S. 450 (1968), 740, Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson

Docket Nº:No. 740
Citation:391 U.S. 450, 88 S.Ct. 1700, 20 L.Ed.2d 733
Party Name:Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson
Case Date:May 27, 1968
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 450

391 U.S. 450 (1968)

88 S.Ct. 1700, 20 L.Ed.2d 733

Monroe

v.

Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson

No. 740

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1968

Argued April 3, 1968

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

About one-third of the City of Jackson's population of 40,000 are Negroes, the great majority of whom live in the city's central area. The city school system has eight elementary, three junior high, and two senior high schools for the 7,650 students, of whom about 40% are Negroes. Tennessee law in 1954 required racial segregation in schools; five elementary and two junior high schools and one senior high school were operated as "white" schools, and the remainder as "Negro" schools. After Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), declared such dual systems unconstitutional, Tennessee enacted a pupil placement law, which gave local school boards exclusive authority to approve assignments. No white students enrolled in any "Negro" school, and only seven applications were granted in two years permitting Negro pupils to enroll in "white" schools. In March, 1962, the Court of Appeals held that law inadequate "as a plan to convert a biracial system into a nonracial one." This action was brought in January, 1963, seeking a declaratory judgment that respondents were operating a racially segregated system, injunctive relief against maintenance of that system, an order directing admission to named "white" schools of Negro plaintiffs, and an order requiring the School Board to formulate and file a desegregation plan. The District Court ordered the students enrolled and the filing of a plan. A plan was filed, and with court-directed modifications, was approved in August, 1963, to be effective at once in the elementary schools and to be extended over a four-year period to junior and senior high schools. The modified plan provides for automatic assignment of pupils within attendance zones drawn along geographic or "natural" boundaries, and "according to the capacity and facilities" of the schools. However, the plan also has a "free-transfer" provision by which a student may freely transfer to a school of his choice if space is available, zone residents having priority in case of overcrowding. No bus service is provided. After one year the Negro elementary schools remained

Page 451

all Negro, and 118 Negro pupils were scattered among four formerly all-white schools. Petitioners moved for further relief and the District Court held the plan had been administered discriminatorily. In the same proceeding the Board filed its proposed zones for the three junior high schools, to which petitioners objected on the grounds that the zones were racially gerrymandered and that the plan was inadequate to reorganize the system on a nonracial basis. Petitioners urged that the Board be required to use a "feeder system," whereby each junior high would draw its students from specific elementary schools. The District Court held that petitioners had not sustained the allegations that the zones were gerrymandered and concluded that "there is no constitutional requirement" that the "feeder system" be adopted. The Court of Appeals affirmed, except on the issue of faculty segregation. Three years later, the Negro junior high, which had over 80% of the Negro junior high students, had no white students, one "white" junior high had seven Negroes out of 819 students, and the other had 349 white and 135 Negro pupils.

Held:

1. The "free-transfer" plan clearly does not meet respondent Board's

affirmative duty to take whatever steps might be necessary to convert to a unitary system in which racial discrimination would be eliminated root and branch,

Green v. County School Board, ante at 437-438, "[r]ather than further the dismantling of the dual system, the ["free-transfer"] plan has operated simply to burden children and their parents with a responsibility . . . placed squarely on the School Board." Id. at 441-442. P. 458.

2. Since it has not been shown that the "free-transfer" plan will further, rather than delay conversion to a unitary nonracial system, it is unacceptable, and the Board must formulate a new plan which promises realistically to convert promptly to a unitary, nondiscriminatory school system. Pp. 459-460.

380 F.2d 955, vacated in part and remanded.

Page 452

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case was argued with No. 695, Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, ante, p. 430, and No. 805, Raney v. Board of Education of the Gould School District, ante, p. 443. The question for decision is similar to the question decided in those cases. Here, however, the principal feature of a desegregation plan -- which calls in question its adequacy to effectuate a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory system in compliance with Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294 (Brown II) -- is not "freedom of choice," but a variant commonly referred to as "free transfer."

The respondent Board of Commissioners is the School Board for the City of Jackson, located in midwestern Tennessee. The school district coincides with the city limits. Some one-third of the city's population of 40,000 are Negroes, the great majority of whom live in the city's central area. The school system has eight elementary schools, three junior high schools, and two senior high schools. There are 7,650 children enrolled in the system's schools, about 40% of whom, over 3,200, are Negroes.

[88 S.Ct. 1702] In 1954, Tennessee by law required racial segregation in its public schools. Accordingly, five elementary schools, two junior high schools, and one senior high school were operated as "white" schools, and three elementary schools, one junior high school, and one senior high school were operated as "Negro" schools. Racial segregation extended to all aspects of school life, including faculties and staffs.

Page 453

After Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (Brown I), declared such state-imposed dual systems unconstitutional, Tennessee enacted a pupil placement law, Tenn.Code § 49-1741 et seq. (1966). That law continued previously enrolled pupils in their assigned schools and vested local school boards with the exclusive authority to approve assignment and transfer requests. No white children enrolled in any "Negro" school under the statute, and the respondent Board granted only seven applications of Negro children to enroll in "white" schools, three in 1961 and four in 1962. In March, 1962, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the pupil placement law was inadequate "as a plan to convert a biracial system into a nonracial one." Northcross v. Board of Education of City of Memphis, 302 F.2d 818, 821.

In January, 1963, petitioners brought this action in the District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that respondent was operating a compulsory racially segregated school system, injunctive relief against the continued maintenance of that system, an order directing the admission to named "white" schools of the plaintiff Negro school children, and an order requiring respondent Board to formulate a desegregation plan. The District Court ordered the Board to enroll the children in the schools in question and directed the Board to formulate and file a desegregation plan. A plan was duly filed and, after modifications directed by the court were incorporated, the plan was approved in August, 1963, to be effective immediately in the elementary schools and to be gradually extended over a four-year period to the junior...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP