Debra P. v. Turlington

Decision Date12 July 1979
Docket NumberNo. 78-892 Civ. T-C.,78-892 Civ. T-C.
Citation474 F. Supp. 244
PartiesDEBRA P., a minor, by Irene P., her mother and next friend, Wanda W., a minor, by Ruby W., her mother and next friend, Luwanda K., a minor, by Willa K., her mother and next friend, Terry W., a minor, by Doris W., his mother and next friend, Brenda T., a minor by Willie T., her father and next friend, Vanessa S., a minor, by Mamie S., her mother and next friend, Thomas J. H., Jr., a minor by Thomas J. H., Sr., his father and next friend, Gary L. B., a minor, by Ezell B., his father and next friend, Valisa W., a minor, by Charles W., her father and next friend, Huey J., a minor, by Melvin G., his guardian and next friend, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. Ralph D. TURLINGTON, Individually and as Commissioner of Education, Florida State Board of Education, Governor Bob Graham, Individually and as Chairman thereof, Secretary of State George Firestone, Attorney General Jim Smith, Comptroller Gerald A. "Jerry" Lewis, Treasurer William Gunter, Commissioner of Agriculture Doyle Conner, Commissioner of Education Ralph D. Turlington, all Individually and as members thereof, Florida Department of Education, School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, a Corporate Body Public, Roland H. Lewis, Individually and as Chairman thereof, Cecile W. Essrig, Carl Carpenter, Jr., Ben H. Hill, Jr., A. Leon Lowery, Sam Rampello, and Marion Rodgers, all Individually and as members thereof, and, Raymond O. Shelton, Individually and as Superintendent of Schools of Hillsborough County, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Morris W. Milton, St. Petersburg, Fla., Stephen F. Hanlon, Robert J. Shapiro, Bay Area Legal Services, Tampa, Fla., Diana Pullin, Roger L. Rice, Richard Jefferson, Center for Law and Education, Cambridge, Mass., Terry L. DeMeo, Legal Services for Greater Miami, Miami Fla., for plaintiffs.

James D. Little and Judith A. Brechner, State Board of Education, Tallahassee, Fla., W. Crosby Few, Tampa, Fla., for Hillsborough County defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CARR, District Judge.

I THE CLAIMS AND CLASSES

The Plaintiffs in the instant action present a broad based constitutional and statutory challenge to the Florida Functional Literacy Examination (i. e. State Student Assessment Test, Part II; hereinafter referred to either as the SSAT II or the functional literacy examination). Fla.Stat. § 229.57, et seq. Plaintiffs contend in a complaint filed October 16, 1978, that the SSAT II violates their Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection rights and also violates their rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000d and 20 U.S.C. § 1703.

The Court on March 21, 1979, certified three classes of Plaintiffs:

Class A are all present and future twelfth grade public school students in the State of Florida who have failed or who hereafter fail the SSAT II.
Class B are all present and future twelfth grade black public school students in the State of Florida who have failed or who hereafter fail the SSAT II.
Class C are all present and future twelfth grade black public school students in Hillsborough County, Florida who have failed or who hereafter fail the SSAT II.

The Defendants in the case are Commissioner of Education, Ralph D. Turlington, the Florida Board of Education, Governor Bob Graham, Secretary of State George Firestone, Attorney General Jim Smith, Comptroller Gerald A. Lewis, Treasurer William Gunter, Commissioner of Agriculture Doyle Conner,1 the Florida Department of Education hereinafter referred to as the DOE, the School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, Roland H. Lewis, Cecile W. Essrig, Carl Carpenter, Jr., Ben H. Hill, Jr., A. Leon Lowery, Sam Rampello, Marion Rodgers,2 and Superintendent of Schools of Hillsborough County, Raymond O. Shelton.

A brief summary of the Plaintiffs' claims in conjunction with the certified classes will facilitate an understanding of the Court's opinion.3 The first claim asserts that the Defendants have either designed or implemented a test or testing program (i. e., SSAT II) which is racially biased and/or which violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and 20 U.S.C. § 1703. The first claim relates to Classes A, B and C.

The second claim contends that Defendants have instituted a program of awarding diplomas without providing the Plaintiffs with adequate notice of the requirements (i. e., passage of the SSAT II) or adequate time to prepare for the required examination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The second claim, like the first, relates to Classes A, B and C.

The third claim asserts that the Defendants have used the SSAT II in conjunction with Fla.Stat. § 236.088 as a mechanism for resegregating the Florida public schools through the use of remedial classes for those students failing the examination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and 20 U.S.C. § 1703. The third claim relates to Classes B and C.

The Plaintiffs' prayer for relief seeks a declaratory judgment finding that the requirement for passage of the SSAT II as a prerequisite for a normal graduation diploma is a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d and 20 U.S.C. § 1703. The Plaintiffs additionally request an injunction restraining the Defendants from requiring SSAT II passage as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. Finally, Plaintiffs seek an injunction to both purge their scholastic records of any acknowledgement of the SSAT II failure and to issue an Order prohibiting the utilization of the SSAT II results as a means of structuring classes in remediation.

II JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction to consider the Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) and (4) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202.

III HISTORICAL AND LEGISLATIVE BACKGROUND
A. THE TEST

In 1976, the Florida Legislature enacted a comprehensive piece of legislation known as the "Educational Accountability Act of 1976." Laws of Florida 1976, Vol. 1, Chapter 76-223, pp. 489-508. Part of the stated intent of the legislature was:

(a) to provide a system of accountability for education in Florida which guarantees that each student is afforded similar opportunities for educational advancement without regard to geographic differences and varying local factors . . (d) to guarantee to each student in the Florida system of public education that the system provides instructional programs which meet minimum performance standards compatible with the state's plan for education . . . (f) to provide information to the public about the performance of the Florida system of public education in meeting established goals and providing effective, meaningful and relevant educational experiences designed to give students at least the minimum skills necessary to function and survive in today's society. Fla.Stat. § 229.55(2)(a), (d), (f).

In a subsection of the Act entitled "Pupil Progression" the legislature established three standards for graduation from Florida public high schools. Fla.Stat. §§ 232.245(3) (1977); 232.246(1)-(3). The first requirement mandated that the students complete the minimum number of credits for graduation promulgated by their school board. The second requirement made compulsory the mastery of basic skills and the third required "satisfactory performance in functional literacy as determined by the State Board of Education . . .." Fla. Stat. § 232.245(3) (1977). The pupil progression subsection also provided that each school district must develop procedures for remediation of students who were unable to meet the required standards. The legislation also provided for a comprehensive testing program to evaluate basic skill development at periodic intervals. Fla.Stat. § 229.57.4 In 1978, the Act was amended by the Florida Legislature to require passage of a functional literacy examination prior to receipt of a state graduation diploma. Those students who completed the minimum number of required high school credits but failed the functional literacy examination would receive a certificate of completion. Fla.Stat. § 232.246.5

At the time of trial the SSAT II had been administered on three separate occasions: Fall, 1977; Fall, 1978; Spring, 1979. A review of the results of the three administrations will be discussed in the following section.

B. THE TEST RESULTS

A review of the results of the October, 1977, administration of the SSAT II indicates that there were substantial numbers of students who failed the test. Of the 115,901 students taking both sections of the test, approximately 41,724 or 36% failed one or both sections. A breakdown of the results on a racial basis shows that 78% of the black students failed one or both sections as compared to 25% of the white students. On the communications section of the SSAT II, 26% of the black students failed as compared to 3% of the white students.

The second administration results followed a similar pattern. Of the 4,480 black students taking the test for a second time, 3,315 or 74% failed one or both sections. The percentage of failure among white students retaking both sections was 25% or 1,675 students. Of the 13,345 black students being reexamined on the mathematics section 46% or 6,139 failed.

The results of the third administration of the SSAT II which were released during the trial illustrate the same disparity in the failure rates among white and black students. Sixty percent (60%) of the black students retaking the mathematics section of the test for a third time failed as compared to 36% of the white students. Between October, 1977, and May, 1979, the number of students who were in Florida public high schools first as juniors and then as seniors had been reduced to 91,000 students. Of the approximately 91,000 high school...

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  • Anderson v. Banks
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Georgia
    • June 17, 1981
    ...discriminatory intent. Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman, 443 U.S. 526, 99 S.Ct. 2971, 61 L.Ed.2d 720 (1979); Debra P. v. Turlington, 474 F.Supp. 244 (M.D.Fla.1979), aff'd, 644 F.2d 347 (5th Cir. 1981). In the presence of an unsatisfied duty to abolish a dual system, the test is the eff......
  • Board of Ed. of City School Dist. of City of New York v. Harris
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    ...for the consequences of past segregation may be viewed by the agency as lingering for a generation, or longer. Cf. Debra P. v. Turlington, 474 F.Supp. 244 (M.D.Fla.1979) (functional literacy test, made prerequisite to granting of high school diploma enjoined for four year period since many ......
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    ...receipt of a diploma therefore the diploma represents a property interest for the purposes of the due process protection. Debra P. v. Turlington, 474 F.Supp. 244; Matter of Goldwyn v. Allen, 54 Misc.2d 94, 281 N.Y.S.2d 899. The petitioners have produced testimony tending to indicate that th......
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    • August 8, 1983
    ...of discriminatory intent. Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman, 443 U.S. 526, 99 S.Ct. 2971, 61 L.Ed.2d 720 (1979); Debra P. v. Turlington, 474 F.Supp. 244 (M.D.Fla.1979), aff'd 644 F.2d 347 (5th Cir.1981). In the presence of an unsatisfied duty to abolish a dual system, the test is the ef......
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