589 F.Supp. 95 (W.D.Ark. 1984), Civ. 83-3038, Horton v. Marshall Public Schools

Docket Nº:Civ. 83-3038
Citation:589 F.Supp. 95
Party Name:Horton v. Marshall Public Schools
Case Date:June 01, 1984
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, Western District of Arkansas

Page 95

589 F.Supp. 95 (W.D.Ark. 1984)

Buford HORTON and Laretta Horton, Husband and Wife, and Phillip Allen Roberson, By and Through His Guardians and Next Friends, Buford Horton and Laretta Horton; Jamie A. Williams and Rhonda Williams, By and Through Janie Williams, Next Friend, Plaintiffs,


MARSHALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Herbert Cleek, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Superintendent of Marshall Public Schools; Spence Holder, Individually and in His Capacity as Principal of Marshall Public Schools; Coy England, Cecil Ray Jennings, Jr., Bob Blare, James Hubbard, and Melvin Englands, Individually and in their Respective Official Capacities as Members and Directors of the School Board of the Marshall School District, Defendants.

Civ. No. 83-3038.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division.

June 1, 1984

Page 96

Marcia McIvor, Ozark Legal Services, Fayetteville, Ark., Margaret Reger, Ozark Legal Services, Harrison, Ark., for plaintiffs.

W. Paul Blume, Little Rock, Ark., for defendants.



This action arises out of the efforts of Phillip Roberson and Rhonda Williams to be enrolled as students in the Marshall Public Schools. On about September 13, 1982, Phillip Roberson, who was 17 years old, was brought by his father to Marshall, Arkansas, to live with his mother, Barbara Roberson, and his uncle and aunt, Buford and Laretta Horton, all residents of the Marshall School District. Prior to this, Phillip had lived with his father in Springfield, Missouri. When the father began to experience marital difficulties, he brought Phillip to Marshall to live with Ms. Roberson. Ms. Roberson had moved to Marshall, where she owned property, the previous July; she had found work and registered to vote in Marshall. Phillip enrolled in the Marshall Public Schools and attended regularly, making good grades and causing no problems.

Sometime after Phillip moved to Marshall, Ms. Roberson left Marshall. Phillip remained with the Hortons. On about January 4, 1983, Phillip was called to the office of the principal of Marshall High School, Mr. Spence Holder. Mr. Holder informed Phillip that he could only attend Marshall High School if he lived with a parent or

Page 97

legal guardian living in Marshall. No written notice of any potential or impending dismissal was ever sent to Phillip, his parents, or his aunt and uncle. On January 7, 1983, Phillip's name was removed from the rolls of Marshall High School. Following the removal of his name from school rolls, Phillip and members of his family made several attempts to obtain permission for Phillip to be readmitted. Mrs. Horton did contact Ozark Legal Services and initiated guardianship proceedings. Phillip was denied readmission to Marshall High School until February 11, 1983, when he was allowed to return to school on the condition that Mr. Horton be named legal guardian of Phillip. Subsequent to returning to school, Phillip was advised that because he had missed more than 15 class periods in each subject during the spring 1983 semester, school policy required that he automatically receive failing grades in all of his courses for the semester. On April 20, 1983, Mr. and Mrs. Horton and Phillip filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requesting the court to issue a preliminary injunction requiring Marshall Public Schools to reinstate Phillip as a student in good standing and to permit him to make up any work missed during his absence. (Subsequent to plaintiffs filing suit, an agreement was reached with the school district allowing Phillip to make up the time and the work he had missed during his absence.) Plaintiffs also request that the court issue a declaratory judgment that the removal of Phillip from Marshall Public Schools rolls violated the due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that ARK.STAT.ANN. § 80-1501, as amended by Act 828 of 1981, is unconstitutional. Plaintiffs also requested damages.

On April 26, 1983, Janie Ann Williams and Rhonda Williams sought permission from the court to intervene in this action. Rhonda, a ninth grader, had been sent on about April 4, 1983, by her mother to live in Marshall with her uncle and aunt, Leo G. and Janie Ann Williams, because of domestic problems at home. On April 6, Mrs. Williams took Rhonda to be enrolled in the Marshall Public Schools, but was told by Mr. Holder that Rhonda could not be enrolled unless Mrs. Williams obtained letters of guardianship. Mrs. Williams investigated the possibility of obtaining guardianship letters, but Rhonda's mother was reluctant to agree to such a proceeding. Rhonda was never admitted to the Marshall Public Schools even though she remained in Marshall for the remainder of the 1982-83 school year. As a consequence of her not being allowed to enroll in the Marshall schools, Rhonda was forced to repeat the ninth grade in another school district the following year. By an order signed December 13, 1983, the court granted Mrs. Williams and Rhonda permission to file their complaint in intervention, seeking the same relief sought by Phillip and the Hortons.

In both removing Phillip's name from the school rolls and refusing to enroll Rhonda, Mr. Holder followed a policy that a parent or guardian must reside in the school district for a child to be eligible to attend Marshall Public Schools. This policy was based upon ARK.STAT.ANN. § 80-1501 (Repl.1980). The plaintiffs contend that section 80-1501 is unconstitutional on its face as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

The Supreme Court has on a number of occasions had the opportunity to consider the constitutionality of state regulations which impose a condition of residency upon the right to receive a benefit. In Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600 (1969), the Court overturned a Connecticut requirement that applicants for public assistance must have lived in the state for at least one year before they could become eligible to receive such benefits. Although the Supreme Court held that such a durational requirement clearly violated the Equal Protection Clause by penalizing the fundamental right of interstate travel without promoting a compelling state interest, Justice Brennan, writing for the Court, noted:

Page 98

We imply no view of the validity of waiting-period or residence requirements determining eligibility to vote, eligibility for tuition-free education, to obtain a license to practice a profession, to hunt or fish, and so forth. Such requirements may promote compelling state interests on the one hand, or, on the other, may not be penalties upon the exercise of the constitutional right of interstate travel. Shapiro v. Thompson, supra, at 638 n. 21, 89 S.Ct. at 1333 n. 21.

In Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 92 S.Ct. 995, 31 L.Ed.2d 274 (1972), Tennessee law limited voter registration to those persons who at the time of the election had been residents of Tennessee for one year and residents of the county for three months. The Supreme Court invalidated the durational component of the residence requirement, but Justice Marshall added, "We emphasize again the difference between bona fide residence requirements and durational residence requirements ... an appropriately defined and uniformly applied requirement of bona fide residence may be necessary to preserve the basic conception of a political community, and therefore could withstand close constitutional scrutiny." Dunn v. Blumstein, supra, at 344, 92 S.Ct. at 1004.1

The Supreme Court has also drawn similar distinctions between durational residence requirements and bona fide residence requirements in cases involving publicly supported education. The constitutionality of a Connecticut statutory definition of "resident" and "non-resident" for purposes of tuition payment at state-supported colleges and universities was at issue in Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 93 S.Ct. 2230, 37 L.Ed.2d 63 (1973). A student's residence classification was established at the time of enrollment and was permanent and irrebuttable for the entire time the student remained at the university. The Court did not question Connecticut's right to classify students by residency...

To continue reading