402 U.S. 33 (1971), 436, Davis v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County

Docket Nº:No. 436
Citation:402 U.S. 33, 91 S.Ct. 1289, 28 L.Ed.2d 577
Party Name:Davis v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County
Case Date:April 20, 1971
Court:United States Supreme Court

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402 U.S. 33 (1971)

91 S.Ct. 1289, 28 L.Ed.2d 577



Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County

No. 436

United States Supreme Court

April 20, 1971

Argued October 13-14, 1970




East of the major highway that divides the metropolitan area of Mobile, Ala., live 94% of the area's Negro students, and the schools there are 65% Negro and 35% white. West of the highway, the schools are 12% Negro and 88% white. The Court of Appeals approved a desegregation plan which, like the District Court's plan, insofar as those areas were concerned, treated the western section as isolated from the eastern, with unified geographic zones and providing no transportation of students for desegregation purposes. Though some reduction in the number of all-Negro schools was achieved for the 1970-1971 school year, nine elementary schools in the eastern section (attended by 64% of all Negro elementary school pupils in the metropolitan area) were over 90% Negro, and over half of the Negro junior and senior high school students went to all-Negro or nearly all-Negro schools. With regard to the faculty and staff ratio in each of Mobile County's schools, the Court of Appeals directed the District Court to require the school board to establish "substantially the same" ratio as that, for the whole district.


1. The Court of Appeals decision dealing with the faculty and staff ratio is affirmed. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, ante, p. 1, at 19-20. P. 35.

2. The Court of Appeals erred in treating the eastern part of metropolitan Mobile in isolation from the rest of the school system, and in not adequately considering the possible use of all available techniques to achieve the maximum amount of practicable desegregation. P. 38.

430 F.2d 883 and 889, affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners in this case challenge as inadequate a school desegregation plan for Mobile County, Alabama. The county is large and populous, embracing 1,248 square miles and the city of Mobile. The school system had 73,500 pupils [91 S.Ct. 1291] in 91 schools at the beginning of the 1969 academic year; approximately 58% of the pupils were white and 42% Negro. During the 1967-1968 school year, the system transported 22,000 pupils daily in over

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200 school buses, both in the rural areas of the county and in the outlying areas of metropolitan Mobile.

The present desegregation plan evolved from one developed by the District Court in response to the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Davis v. Board of School Comm'rs, 414 F.2d 609 (CA5 1969), that an earlier desegregation plan formulated by the District Court on the basis of unified geographic zones was "constitutionally insufficient and unacceptable, and such zones must be redrawn." The Court of Appeals held that that earlier plan had "ignored the unequivocal directive to make a conscious effort in locating attendance zones to desegregate and eliminate past segregation." Id. at 610.

The District Court responded with a new zoning plan which left 18,623, or 60%, of the system's 30,800 Negro children in 19 all-Negro or nearly all-Negro schools. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reviewed all aspects of desegregation in Mobile County....

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