Bonner v. Texas City Independent School Dist. of Texas

Decision Date02 September 1969
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 65-G-56.
Citation305 F. Supp. 600
PartiesWinfred H. BONNER, Plaintiff, v. The TEXAS CITY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT OF Texas City, TEXAS; Dave Engman, Superintendent; H. W. McAnich, John C. Gee, J. B. Wimberly, W. L. Johnson, Ed Staggs, Dr. Charles Rohden, Board Members, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas

Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit, III, and Conrad K. Harper, of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., New York City, and M. W. Plummer, Houston, Tex., for plaintiff.

Neugent & Lilienstern, Holman Lilienstern, Texas City, Tex., for defendant.

SUPPLEMENTED FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

NOEL, District Judge.

I. PREFACE

Plaintiff, a Negro, was not rehired by the defendant Texas City Independent School District ("the District") for the 1965-1966 school year. He brought this action against the District, its Superintendent, and several members of its Board of Trustees ("the Board") alleging that his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to due process of law and equal protection of the laws had been violated. Later, plaintiff obtained leave of Court and amended his complaint to demand relief, pursuant to Rule 23(b) (2), F.R.Civ.P., not only for himself individually but also as the representative of all Negro teachers similarly situated. Jurisdiction is alleged under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and is not challenged by defendants.

On his own behalf plaintiff seeks (1) an injunction requiring defendants (a) to offer him a teaching contract for the 1965-1966 school year in accordance with his claimed qualifications and experience and without regard to race or color, (b) to maintain their contractual relation with him in subsequent years on the same basis, and (c) to refrain from maintaining any policy of discrimination against him because of his race or color, (2) punitive damages, and (3) reasonable attorneys' fees. On behalf of himself and his class he seeks back pay. By stipulation at trial, all issues as to attorneys' fees and damages were severed pursuant to Rule 42(b), F.R.Civ.P.

The Court has entered a pre-trial order in this case, agreed to by the parties, specifying a single fact issue:

Did defendants refuse to re-employ plaintiff to teach at the integrated Texas City High School because of his race or color, pursuant to a policy or plan not to permit Negro teachers to teach white students?

Although broad, this issue was not broad enough to encompass the class action claim added to the complaint after the pre-trial order was entered; amendment of the order was not sought. Plaintiff nevertheless offered evidence with respect to both claims without objection, and after the trial requested leave to amend his complaint further to allege that he had been denied due process of law by the procedures used by defendants in not rehiring him.

The District's defense is that it refused to rehire plaintiff because he was a poor teacher and because he had failed to work harmoniously with his superiors, not because of his race nor as an effect of the integration then in progress. The District also moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and for plaintiff's failure to exhaust the administrative remedies provided by state law. Additionally, it moved to strike the class action aspects of the amended complaint.

The evidence adduced in a seven-day trial to the Court was not favorable to plaintiff. To the contrary, it so clearly supported the defense as to cause this Court to conclude that defendants proved, not only by a preponderance of the evidence but beyond a reasonable doubt, that plaintiff's race had nothing to do with the Board's decision that he was unfit to continue as a teacher. Plaintiff did not offer a scintilla of evidence which the Court considered of probative force on the affirmative side of the single issue agreed to by the parties in the pre-trial order.

At the trial extensive evidence was heard concerning the District's experience with desegregation, plaintiff's relations with his principal and his other administrative superiors, and the procedure by which the Board determined not to rehire him for the 1965-1966 school year. After stating its findings on each of these issues, the Court will make conclusions of law as follows:

(1) The Court has jurisdiction of the claim and over all parties, but plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against any except the individual defendants in their individual capacities.

(2) This case is not a proper class action, and defendants' motion to strike the class action allegations in the amended complaint should be granted.

(3) The motion to amend the complaint to conform to the evidence should be denied.

(4) Plaintiff was not denied due process of law or equal protection of the laws because of his race, as a result of the integration of the District, or by virtue of the procedures used by the Board in considering whether to rehire him.

(5) Plaintiff's request for an injunction should be denied.

(6) The motion to dismiss should be granted.

A jury having been waived by the parties and the Court having heard the evidence, arguments and re-arguments of counsel, and having had the assistance of extensive briefing by the opposing counsel, has found as facts and arrived at conclusions of law as follows:

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

(1) The plaintiff, Winfred H. Bonner, is a 47-year-old citizen of the United States and of Texas, holding a B. A. degree, and he is certified by the State of Texas to teach grades 1-12, speech pathology, and the mentally retarded. Plaintiff has had post-graduate work in his specialities at Tillson College, Prairie View A & M College, University of Texas, San Francisco State College, Germerson Western State College in Colorado, University of Denver, Our Lady of the Lake at San Antonio, and Northwestern University.

(2) The Texas City Independent School District is governed by a Board of Trustees which operates and maintains a system of public schools within the boundaries of the District, located in Galveston County, Texas. Board members are elected officials who serve without pay.

(3) B. R. Brooks was Superintendent of Schools for the District from 1950 until his resignation in 1963. His successor was Dr. Edsell F. Bittick, who served during the 1963-1964 school year. Upon his resignation, J. D. King became Superintendent and served until his death in August 1965. He was succeeded by Dr. J. D. Engman, who has served from January 1966 to the present.

(4) During the 20 years preceding the trial of this cause, there had never been any manifestation in the District of racial violence or hatred between Whites and Negroes, such as race riots, or civil rights marches or demonstrations.

(5) Prior to the 1963-1964 school year, the District had operated a number of schools for White pupils, as well as the Booker T. Washington School, a 12-grade school for Negro pupils.

(6) Within six months after the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873, 38 A.L.R.2d 1180 (1954), the President of the Board appointed a bi-racial study committee, which recommended that the community, Negro as well as White, be educated as to the necessity for school desegregation. This recommendation was implemented by contacting ministers, giving speeches to church groups, and exchanging pastors between churches.

(7) In 1959 the President of the Board appointed a second bi-racial study committee to investigate and determine whether integration was feasible, and if so, to develop a plan of desegregation. The committee reported a plan of desegregation back to the Board which, with two modifications, was accepted by the Board.

(8) The Board would have implemented the modified plan of desegregation without judicial intervention but for a state law providing for the termination of all state school aid if schools were desegregated without a referendum. No referendum was held. It had already been established from the work of the bi-racial committees that the community favored desegregation.

(9) By pre-arrangement between the parties, on August 8, 1961, a number of Negro pupils and their parents filed suit in this Court against the District, the Board, its members, and others seeking desegregation of schools in the District. Evans v. Brooks, Civil No. 2803 (Galveston Div., S.D.Tex.). On April 10, 1962, this Court entered a judgment based on the report of the 1959 study committee, as modified by the Board. This judgment was drawn and agreed to by counsel for all parties, and was presented to the Court as an agreed judgment. No hearing or trial was had in the case. The judgment permanently enjoined segregation of the races in any school of the District and prescribed a plan of desegregation for all schools in the District. The prescribed schedule of desegregation commenced with the 12th, 11th, and 10th grades for the 1963-1964 school year, and continued for an additional grade each succeeding year from the 9th to 1st grades, until the entire system had been desegregated. Although the judgment expressly provided that "this action shall be retained on the docket for such further proceedings and orders as may be appropriate to effectuate this judgment," no further motion has been filed or order entered in the case concerning any aspect of desegregation or integration of the Texas City school system.

(10) The District complied with the judgment by affording all 10th, 11th, and 12th grade pupils, at the beginning of the 1963-1964 school year, the freedom of choosing whether to attend the formerly all-Negro Booker T. Washington High School or the formerly all-White Texas City High School. Thereafter, as each grade was desegregated, all pupils in the District were permitted to enroll in the desegregated grades to which they were eligible in the school or schools...

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