Capacchione v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Decision Date09 September 1999
Docket NumberNo. 3:97-CV-482-P.,No. 3:65-CV-1974-P.,3:97-CV-482-P.,3:65-CV-1974-P.
Citation57 F.Supp.2d 228
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of North Carolina
PartiesWilliam CAPACCHIONE, Individually and on Behalf of Cristina Capacchione, a Minor, Plaintiff, and Michael P. Grant et al., Plaintiff-Intervenors, v. CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG SCHOOLS et al., Defendants. James E. Swann et al., Plaintiffs, v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education et al., Defendants.

Charlotte, NC, William S. Helfand, Stephen A. Katsurinis, Magenheim, Bateman, Robinson, Wrotenbery & Helfan, P.L.L.C., Houston, TX, Lee Myers, Meyers & Hulse, Charlotte, NC, for William Capacchione.

Anita S. Hodgkiss, James E. Ferguson, Luke Largess, Ferguson, Stein, Wallas, Gresham & Sumter, P.A., Charlotte, NC, Adam Stein, Ferguson, Stein, Wallas, Adkins, Gresham & Sumter, Chapel Hill, NC, Elaine Jones, Norman J. Chachkin, Gloria J. Browne, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., New York City, for Swann Plaintiffs, intervenor-plaintiff.

James G. Middlebrooks, Irving M. Brenner, Smith, Helms, Mulliss & Moore, LLP, Charlotte, NC, Allen R. Snyder, Kevin J. Lanigan, Maree Sneed, Rose Marie L. Audette, Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P., Washington, DC, Leslie J. Winner, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, Charlotte, NC, for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, defendant.

A. Lee Parks, K. Lee Adams, Kirwan, Parks, Chesin & Miller, P.C., Atlanta, GA, Thomas J. Ashcraft, Charlotte, NC, for Michael P. Grant, intervenor-plaintiff.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

ROBERT D. POTTER, Senior District Judge

                TABLE OF CONTENTS
                INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................232
                 I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY ......................................................232
                    A. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education ..................................232
                    B. 1975-1998: Swan Inactive ...........................................................236
                    C. Cavacchione v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools / Swann Reactivated ...................239
                II. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS ..............................................................240
                    A. The Constitutional Basis for Race Conscious Desegregation Orders ..................240
                    B. Unitary Status ....................................................................242
                       1. Student Assignment .............................................................244
                          a. The Standard for Compliance .................................................244
                          b. The Level of CMS's Compliance ...............................................246
                          c. Desegregation and Demographic Trends ........................................249
                          d. The Concerns of Martin: School Siting and Transportation Burdens ............250
                          e. The Historical Status of Imbalanced Schools .................................253
                          f. Possibilities of Further Racial Balance .....................................255
                       2. Faculty Assignment .............................................................257
                       3. Facilities and Resources .......................................................261
                       4. Transportation .................................................................267
                       5. Staff Assignment ...............................................................268
                       6. Extracurricular Activities .....................................................268
                       7. Ancillary Considerations .......................................................269
                          a. Teacher Quality .............................................................270
                          b. Student Achievement .........................................................272
                             i. The Requirements of Swann ................................................272
                             ii. CMS's Efforts to Close the Gap ..........................................273
                             iii. Experts' Explanations of the Gap .......................................275
                          c. Student Discipline ..........................................................281
                       8. Good Faith .....................................................................282
                    C. Constitutional Injuries ...........................................................284
                       1. Immunity under the Swann Orders ................................................285
                       2. The Magnet School Admissions Policy ............................................287
                       3. Nominal Damages ................................................................290
                    D. Injunctive Relief .................................................................290
                    E. Attorneys Fees ....................................................................292
                CONCLUSION ...............................................................................293
                
INTRODUCTION

Three decades ago, this Court-and ultimately the United States Supreme Court-provided the constitutional imprimatur for ordering local school systems to bus children away from their neighborhood schools in order to remedy the past vestiges of unlawful segregation. See Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 402 U.S. 1, 91 S.Ct. 1267, 28 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971). The usurpation of a local school system's student assignment policies by a federal court was an extraordinary event. As the Supreme Court has observed: "No single tradition in public education is more deeply rooted than local control over the operation of schools." Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717, 741, 94 S.Ct. 3112, 3125, 41 L.Ed.2d 1069 (1974) ("Milliken I"). Nevertheless, this Court's exercise of its equity power was deemed necessary to eliminate the conditions and redress the injuries caused by the "dual school system." The injunction entered by this Court, like any temporary equitable remedy, eventually must reach an end. Today, this Court decides whether the Defendant Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ("CMS"1) has reached that end by creating a "unitary school system."

CMS takes a bizarre posture in this late phase of the case, arguing that it has not complied with the Court's orders. In 1965, when the Swann litigation began, CMS strongly resisted federal supervision, but, today, the school system is equally fervent in resisting the removal of the desegregation order because it now wishes to use that order as a pretext to pursue race-conscious, diversity-enhancing policies in perpetuity. Consequently, CMS, the defendants, are now allied with the original class action plaintiffs who represent parents of black children in the district (the "Swarm Plaintiffs"2). A separate group of parents of children in the school system (collectively referred to as the "Plaintiff-Intervenors") seek an end to CMS's use of race-based policies.

After an extensive, two-month evidentiary trial, the Court is convinced that CMS, to the extent reasonably practicable, has complied with the thirty-year-old desegregation order in good faith; that racial imbalances existing in schools today are no longer vestiges of the dual system; and that it is unlikely that the school board will return to an intentionally-segregative system. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that CMS has achieved unitary status in all respects and therefore dissolves the desegregation order. The Court also finds that certain CMS student assignment practices went beyond constitutionally permissible bounds. Finally, to the extent that the continued use of certain race-based policies would violate the commands of the Equal Protection Clause absent a remedial purpose, such practices by CMS are hereinafter prohibited.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
A. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

In 1954, the Supreme Court announced that the doctrine of "separate but equal" was unconstitutional, thereby prohibiting state-sponsored racial separation in public schools. Brown v. Board of Educ., 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954) ("Brown I"). In a subsequent decision, the Supreme Court further mandated desegregation "with all deliberate speed." Brown v. Board of Educ., 349 U.S. 294, 75 S.Ct. 753, 99 L.Ed. 1083 (1955) ("Brown II"). Despite the holdings of Brown I and Brown II many public school systems, particularly in the South, resisted taking any positive steps toward desegregation. See generally Geoffrey R. Stone et al., Constitutional Law 533 (3d ed. 1996); James R. Dunn, Title VI. The Guidelines and School Desegregation in the South, 53 Va. L. Rev. 42, 42 (1967). The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina-where, prior to Brown, public schools had been segregated on the basis of race as a matter of state law and school board policy-was likewise slow to dismantle its dual school system. See generally Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 300 F.Supp. 1358 (W.D.N.C.1969) (detailing the history of segregation in Charlotte, North Carolina).

In 1965, the Swann Plaintiffs filed their complaint for injunctive relief in this Court, claiming that the policies and practices of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education were perpetuating a segregated school system. On July 14, 1965, United States District Judge Braxton Craven, Jr., presiding over the case, approved a school board-proposed desegregation plan that closed certain all-black schools, built some new schools, established school zones based on neighborhoods, and allowed for students of any race to freely transfer to a school of his or her choice. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 243 F.Supp. 667 (W.D.N.C.1965), aff'd, 369 F.2d 29 (1966).

"Freedom of choice" transfer plans were a common response to the mandate of Brown,3 but such policies had little effect on dismantling the dual systems. Dunn, supra, at 44. Only a small number of black children...

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