627 F.Supp. 814 (E.D.Va. 1984), Civ. A. 83-326, Riddick by Riddick v. School Bd. of City of Norfolk

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 83-326
Citation:627 F.Supp. 814
Party Name:Riddick by Riddick v. School Bd. of City of Norfolk
Case Date:July 09, 1984
Court:United States District Courts, 4th Circuit, Eastern District of Virginia

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627 F.Supp. 814 (E.D.Va. 1984)

Paul R. RIDDICK, Jr., and Phelicia Riddick, Infants, by Paul R. RIDDICK, Their Father and Next Friend, Cynthia C. Ferebee, Johnny Ferebee, Infants, by Rev. Luther M. Ferebee, Their Father and Next Friend, Anita Fleming, Infant, by Blanche Fleming, Her Mother and Next Friend, Darrell McDonald and Carolyn McDonald, Infants, by Ramion McDonald, Sr., Their Father and Next Friend, Eric E. Nixon and James L. Nixon, Infants, by Patricia Nixon, Their Mother and Next Friend, Johnny Owens; Trent Owens; Myron Owens, Shawn Owens, and Antonia Owens, Infants, by Annette Owens, Their Mother and Next Friend; Paul R. Riddick, Rev. Luther M. Ferebee, Blanche Fleming, Ramion McDonald, Sr., Patricia Nixon, and Annette Owens, Plaintiffs,


The SCHOOL BOARD OF the CITY OF NORFOLK Thomas G. Johnson, Jr., Dr. John H. Foster, Dr. Lucy R. Wilson, Jean C. Bruce, Cynthia A. Heide, Robert L. Hicks, Hortense R. Wells, Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 83-326-N.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division. .

July 9, 1984

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Henry L. Marsh, III, S.W. Tucker, Randall G. Johnson, Hill, Tucker and Marsh, Richmond, Va., Gwendolyn J. Jackson, Delk, James & Jackson, Norfolk, Va., Napoleon Williams, New York City, John O. Goss, Norfolk, Va., for plaintiffs.

Jack E. Greer, J. Anderson Stalnaker, M. Wayne Ringer, Williams, Worrell, Kelly & Greer, P.C., Norfolk, Va., for defendants.


MacKENZIE, Chief Judge.

Procedural History of Recent Complaint

This suit was filed by the plaintiffs, parents of public school children, as a class action against the School Board of the City of Norfolk, Virginia, and the members thereof, on May 5, 1983. The suit challenges, on constitutional grounds, a new proposed pupil assignment plan (hereinafter "Proposed Plan") in which crosstown busing of elementary school children is curtailed. The Proposed Plan was adopted by the School Board on February 2, 1983 and is scheduled for implementation in the school year beginning September, 1984. Plaintiffs contend that the adoption of the Proposed Plan was racially motivated and that its implementation would violate the rights of the plaintiffs under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Defendants contend that the present plan, with its massive crosstown busing, has had the effect of resegregating the school system and that continuation of the present plan would result in even further resegregation. Defendants argue that the Proposed Plan was adopted, in large measure, to promote stability in the school system and thereby to ensure that the Norfolk school system remains as desegregated as possible over the long term.

Past History of Proceedings

Desegregation litigation in Norfolk began in 1956, styled Beckett v. School Board of the City of Norfolk, before Judge Walter E. Hoffman. Beckett, renamed Brewer v. School Board of the City of Norfolk, became the individual docket responsibility of Judge John A. MacKenzie on July 7, 1971, and the district court decisions from that date, to the present, have all been those of Judge MacKenzie.

Following the decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S.Ct. 1267, 28 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971), Brewer v. Norfolk School Board was remanded to the District

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Court by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, with instructions to obtain from the Norfolk School Board a new desegregation plan which would give effect to Swann. Brewer, sub nom., Adams v. School District No. 5, Orangeburg County, South Carolina, 444 F.2d 99 (4th Cir.1971), cert. denied, 406 U.S. 933, 92 S.Ct. 1778, 32 L.Ed.2d 136 (1972).

Acting under that mandate, this Court received a revised desegregation plan from the School Board. This plan, modified in some respects by this Court, was instituted by an Order of this Court entered in July 1971. The plan utilized several different methods of pupil assignment including single school attendance zones, groupings and pairings of schools, and a majority-minority transfer provision. It also ordered crosstown busing as a technique to overcome the remaining vestiges of Norfolk's dual school system. That plan was approved by the Fourth Circuit with the minor change that crosstown busing was to be without cost to the students. This pupil assignment plan, which was subjected to periodic review over the next several years, is essentially the plan now in effect.


In July 1971, when the current desegregation plan was instituted and busing began, the population of Norfolk was 307,951 of which 70% (215,096) were white and 28% (87,261) were black. The Norfolk school system in 1970 enrolled 56,830 pupils, of which 57% (32,586) were white and 43% (24,244) were black.

By 1983, when the Proposed Plan was adopted by the School Board, the situation had changed significantly. The 1980 Census pegged the population of the City of Norfolk at 266,979 of which 61% (162,300) were white residents and 35% (93,987) were black residents. Total enrollment in the Norfolk school system stood at 35,540 in 1983. And in 1983, the racial composition of the school system was the following: 58% of the students (20,681) were black and 42% (13,327) were white. In the past twelve years then, there has been a 37% loss in enrollment (21,290) and, specifically, a drop in the white student population of 59% (19,259).

These figures are noteworthy in two respects: first, that the racial composition of the school population had reversed itself, in 1983 it was 58% black, 42% white while in 1970 it had been 57% white and 43% black. Second, while the population of the City of Norfolk was 61% white in 1983, the school population was 42% white. This is to be compared with the situation in 1971 when the City's population was 70% white and the school population was 60% white.

In 1970 there were fifty-four elementary schools. In 1983 there were only thirty-six. This reflects the shrinking elementary school population as part of the 37% drop overall in school enrollment.

The Proposed Plan

On February 2, 1983, the School Board of the City of Norfolk adopted the Proposed Plan which provides for a change in the system by which pupils in the elementary grades are assigned to schools. The Norfolk school system operates thirty-six elementary schools, and defines the elementary grades to include Kindergarten through Sixth Grade (K-6). (One of the thirty-six elementary schools, Ghent Elementary, is not now and will not become a neighborhood school. It offers an open classroom program and any student may apply for admission to it.) At the present time, there are fourteen single attendance zone schools (an increase of twelve since 1971) while the other elementary students in the school system are involved in the crosstown busing program. The Board has proposed instead that all elementary students attend single attendance zone schools (otherwise known, somewhat inaccurately, as neighborhood schools), the zones having been drawn to achieve the maximum amount of racial integration. The plaintiffs have not attacked the zones as drawn.

Under the Proposed Plan, crosstown busing for racial balance in Grades K-6 would be eliminated. The Proposed Plan would have the effect of increasing the number of

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black racially identifiable elementary schools from 7 to 12. (This Court considers a school to be "racially identifiable" if the school population contains more than 70% of a particular race.)

The Proposed Plan includes a Majority-Minority transfer option ("M/M transfer"). No student would be required to attend a school in which his race constitutes more than 70% of the student body. Under the M/M transfer program, the student could transfer, at his parents' option, to a school in which his race constitutes less than 50% of the student body. The school administration has calculated that 10-15% of those eligible for the M/M transfer program would choose to use it in the first year and that up to 30-40% of those eligible would opt for it over the next five years. After considering the evidence of experts for both the plaintiffs and defendants, this Court finds that the school administration's figures are a reasonable estimate of the outcome of the M/M transfer program. This Court therefore finds that the School Board's figures--calculated on the basis that approximately 17-18% would opt to transfer--give a fair illustration of the effects of the M/M transfer program upon the elementary school population. After M/M transfers, only one elementary school would be over 70% white, i.e., Bayview (74%).

The Norfolk school system also includes Grades Seven-Twelve (7-12), located in eight Junior High Schools, five Senior High Schools and six Special Instruction Schools. These schools are not affected by the Proposed Plan. Under the Proposed Plan, crosstown busing will still be used to achieve racially mixed student bodies in those schools. The Proposed Plan creates a feeder pattern of elementary schools for the assignment of students to Junior High Schools. Each Junior High School will have a racially balanced student body as a result. In short, these schools will retain their present characteristics.

While the Proposed Plan also involves the creation of programs designed to improve achievement, parental involvement, cross-cultural contacts and to ensure equal allocation of education resources, the major issues raised in this suit concerned the pupil assignment component.

The 1975 Order in Beckett v. School Board: Its Meaning

As has been pointed out, the desegregation plan for the Norfolk school system was entered in July 1971 by the same judge as here presiding, and remains the framework for the organization of the school system. In...

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