443 U.S. 449 (1979), 78-610, Columbus Bd. of Educ. v. Penick

Docket Nº:No. 78-610
Citation:443 U.S. 449, 99 S.Ct. 2941, 61 L.Ed.2d 666
Party Name:Columbus Bd. of Educ. v. Penick
Case Date:July 02, 1979
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 449

443 U.S. 449 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 2941, 61 L.Ed.2d 666

Columbus Bd. of Educ.

v.

Penick

No. 78-610

United States Supreme Court

July 2, 1979

Argued April 24, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

This class action was brought in 1973 by students in the Columbus, Ohio, school system, charging that the Columbus Board of Education (Board) and its officials had pursued and were pursuing a course of conduct having the purpose and effect of causing and perpetuating racial segregation in the public schools, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. The case was ultimately tried in April-June, 1976, final arguments were heard in September, 1976, and in March, 1977, the District Court filed an opinion and order containing its findings of fact and conclusions of law. It found (1) that in 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (Brown I), was decided, the Board was not operating a racially neutral unitary school system, but was conducting "an enclave of separate, black schools on the near east side of Columbus," and that this was "the direct result of cognitive acts or omissions of those school board members and administrators who had originally intentionally caused and later perpetuated the racial isolation"; (2) that, since the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294 (Brown II), the Board had been under a continuous constitutional obligation to disestablish its dual system and that it has failed to discharge this duty; and (3) that, in the intervening years since 1954, there had been a series of Board actions and practices that could not "reasonably be explained without reference to racial concerns" and that "intentionally aggravated, rather than alleviated," racial separation in the schools. Ultimately concluding that, at the time of trial, the racial segregation in the Columbus school system "directly resulted from [the Board's] intentional segregative acts and omissions," in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the court, accordingly, enjoined the defendants from continuing to discriminate on the basis of race in operating the public schools and ordered the submission of a systemwide desegregation plan. Subsequently, following the decision in Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman, 433 U.S. 406 (Dayton I), the District Court rejected the Board's argument that that decision required or permitted modification of the court's finding or judgment. Based on its examination of the record, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments against the defendants.

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Held:

1. On the record, there is no apparent reason to disturb the findings and conclusions of the District Court, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, that the Board's conduct at the time of trial and before not only was animated by an unconstitutional, segregative purpose, but also had current segregative impact that was sufficiently systemwide to warrant the remedy ordered by the District Court. Pp. 454-463.

(a) Proof of purposeful and effective maintenance of a body of separate black schools in a substantial part of the system is itself prima facie proof of a dual system, and supports a finding to this effect absent sufficient contrary proof by the Board, which was not forthcoming in this case. Pp. 455-458.

(b) The Board's continuing affirmative duty to disestablish the dual school system, mandated by Brown II, is beyond question, and there is nothing in the record to show that, at the time of trial, the dual school system in Columbus and its effects had been disestablished. Pp. 458-461.

2. There is no indication that the judgments below rested on any misapprehension of the controlling law. Pp. 463-468.

(a) Where it appears that the District Court, while recognizing that disparate impact and foreseeable consequences, without more, do not establish a constitutional violation, correctly noted that actions having foreseeable and anticipated disparate impact are relevant evidence to prove the ultimate fact of a forbidden purpose, the court stayed well within the requirements of Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229, and Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, that a plaintiff seeking to make out an equal protection violation on the basis of racial discrimination must show purpose. Pp. 464-465.

(b) Where the District Court repeatedly emphasized that it had found purposefully segregative practices with current, systemwide impact, there was no failure to observe the requirements of Dayton I, that the remedy imposed by a court of equity should be commensurate with the violation ascertained. Pp. 465-467.

(c) Nor was there any misuse of Keyes v. School Dist. No. 1, Denver, Colo., 413 U.S. 189, where it was held that purposeful discrimination in a substantial part of a school system furnishes a sufficient basis for an inferential finding of a systemwide discriminatory intent unless otherwise rebutted, and that, given the purpose to operate a dual school system, one could infer a connection between such purpose and racial separation in other parts of the school system. Pp. 467-468.

583 F.2d 787, affirmed.

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WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 468. STEWART, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post p. 469. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 479. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 489.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The public schools of Columbus, Ohio, are highly segregated by race. In 1976, over 32% of the 96,000 students in the system were black. About 70% of all students attended schools that were at least 80% black or 80% white. 429 F.Supp. 229, 240 (SD Ohio 1977). Half of the 172 schools were 90% black or 90% white. 583 F.2d 787, 800 (CA6 1978). Fourteen named students in the Columbus school system brought this case on June 21, 1973, against the Columbus Board of Education, the State Board of Education, and the appropriate local and state officials.1 The second amended complaint, filed on October 22, 1974, charged that the Columbus defendants had pursued and were pursuing a course of conduct having the purpose and effect of causing and perpetuating segregation in the public schools, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. A declaratory judgment to this effect and appropriate injunctive relief were prayed. Trial of the case began more than a year later, consumed 36 trial days, produced a record containing over 600 exhibits and a transcript in excess of 6,600 pages, and was completed in June, 1976. Final arguments were heard in September, and, in March, 1977, the District Court filed an opinion and order containing its findings of fact and conclusions of law. 4 29 F.Supp. 229.

The trial court summarized its findings:

From the evidence adduced at trial, the Court has found earlier in this opinion that the Columbus Public Schools were openly and intentionally segregated on the basis of race when Brown [v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (Brown I)] was decided in 1954. The Court has found that the Columbus Board of Education never actively set out to dismantle this dual system. The Court has found that until legal action was initiated by the

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Columbus Area Civil Rights Council, the Columbus Board did not assign teachers and administrators to Columbus schools at random, without regard for the racial composition of the student enrollment at those schools. The Columbus Board even in very recent times . . . has approved optional attendance zones, discontiguous attendance areas and boundary changes which have maintained and enhanced racial imbalance in the Columbus Public Schools. The Board, even in very recent times and after promising to do otherwise, has adjured [sic] workable suggestions for improving the racial balance of city schools.

Viewed in the context of segregative optional attendance zones, segregative faculty and administrative hiring and assignments, and the other such actions and decisions of the Columbus Board of Education in recent and remote history, it is fair and reasonable to draw an inference of segregative intent from the Board's actions and omissions discussed in this opinion.

Id. at 260-261.

The District Court's ultimate conclusion was that, at the time of trial, the racial segregation in the Columbus school system "directly resulted from [the Board's] intentional segregative acts and omissions," id. at 259, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Accordingly, judgment was entered against the local and state defendants enjoining them from continuing to discriminate on the basis of race in operating the Columbus public schools and ordering the submission of a systemwide desegregation plan.

Following decision by this Court in Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman, 433 U.S. 406 (Dayton I), in June, 1977, and in response to a motion by the Columbus Board, the District Court rejected the argument that Dayton I required or permitted any modification of its findings or judgment. It reiterated its conclusion that the Board's "`liability in this case concerns the Columbus School District as a whole,'" App. to Pet. for Cert. 94, quoting 429 F.Supp. at 266, asserting that,

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although it had "no real interest in any remedy plan which is more sweeping than necessary to correct the constitutional wrongs plaintiffs have suffered," neither would it accept any plan "which fails to take into account the systemwide nature of the liability of the defendants."...

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