Dowell v. BD. OF EDUC. OF OKLAHOMA CITY PUB. SCH., No. CIV-61-9452-B.

Decision Date07 November 1991
Docket NumberNo. CIV-61-9452-B.
Citation778 F. Supp. 1144
PartiesRobert L. DOWELL, et al., Plaintiffs, v. The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the OKLAHOMA CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Independent District No. 89, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Oklahoma

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Norman J. Chachkin, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, New York City, John W. Walker of John W. Walker, P.A., Little Rock, Ark., Lewis Barber, Jr. of Barber & Marshall, P.A., Oklahoma City, Okl., and Janell M. Byrd, Washington, D.C., for plaintiffs.

Charles J. Cooper, Peter J. Ferrara, Ellen M. Jakovic, and Michael W. Kirk of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge, Washington, D.C., and Laurie W. Jones of Fenton, Fenton, Smith, Reneau & Moon, of counsel, Oklahoma City, Okl., for defendants.

                                             TABLE OF CONTENTS
                                                                                                      Page
                I.  PROCEDURAL HISTORY .............................................................. 1149
                II. THE INJUNCTION SHOULD BE DISSOLVED BECAUSE THE SCHOOL-BOARD
                    HAS COMPLIED IN GOOD FAITH WITH ITS TERMS AND THE
                    VESTIGES OF PRIOR SEGREGATION HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED TO
                    THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE .......................................................... 1156
                     A. The Oklahoma City School Board Has in Good Faith Fully Implemented
                        and Complied with the Court's 1972 Decree, and is Not Likely to Return to
                        a System of De Jure Segregation .................................... 1156
                     B. The Vestiges of Prior De Jure School Segregation had been Eliminated to
                        the Extent Practicable by 1985, When the SRP was Adopted .................... 1160
                
                                                                                                      Page
                   1. Residential Segregation ...................................................... 1160
                   2. Student Assignments .......................................................... 1172
                   3. Faculty ...................................................................... 1175
                   4. Administrative Staff ......................................................... 1177
                   5. Transportation ............................................................... 1177
                   6. Extra-curricular Activities .................................................. 1177
                   7. Facilities ................................................................... 1178
                   8. Conclusion ................................................................... 1178
                III. THE SRP WAS ADOPTED FOR LEGITIMATE, NON-DISCRIMINATORY
                     PURPOSES AND THEREFORE SATISFIES EQUAL PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS ................ 1179
                     A. The Board Adopted the SRP to Remedy Inequities in the Finger Plan and
                        not for Any Discriminatory Purpose ......................................... 1180
                        1. Operation of the Finger Plan and Adoption of the SRP .................... 1181
                        2. Motivation Behind Adoption of the SRP ................................... 1183
                        3. Procedure for Adoption of the SRP ....................................... 1184
                        4. Testimony Concerning Intent ............................................. 1185
                     B. The Board Adopted the SRP for Additional Non-Discriminatory Reasons
                        Related to the Expected Benefits of a Neighborhood Schools Plan ............ 1187
                        1. Parental Involvement .................................................... 1187
                        2. Community Involvement ................................................... 1189
                        3. Programs to Maintain Unitary School System .............................. 1189
                        4. Educational and Extracurricular Programs ................................ 1190
                        5. Negative Effects of Busing .............................................. 1191
                     C. The Emergence of Predominantly Black Schools Under the SRP, Without
                        More, Does Not Establish that the Board Acted with Discriminatory Intent ... 1191
                IV. CONCLUSION ..................................................................... 1195
                V. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS ............................................................. 1196
                
MEMORANDUM OPINION

BOHANON, District Judge.

The central issue now before this court was aptly framed by the ninth circuit in a closely analogous case decided over a decade ago. "`If not now, and on this showing, when, and on what showing' will the governance of the school system be restored to the elected officials who are charged with that governance under state law?" Spangler v. Pasadena City Bd. of Educ., 611 F.2d 1239, 1240 (9th Cir.1979). Plaintiffs' answer to this question is direct: not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps never. Defendant's answer to this question is equally direct: now is the time.

This October was the thirtieth anniversary of this case, which was filed in this court in October, 1961. During this time, the court and the parties have labored together on the difficult and sensitive task of dismantling a formerly de jure segregated school district and establishing in its place a unitary, nondiscriminatory system. After 30 years of litigation, this case is now ready for final resolution. The Supreme Court has remanded the case back to this court with instructions to determine on the basis of the established record whether the purpose of the comprehensive desegregation plan entered by the court in 1972 had been achieved as of 1985. The court finds that the record in this case, measured against the standards set forth in the Supreme Court's opinion, clearly establishes that the defendant Oklahoma City Board of Education ("Board") had eradicated the vestiges of the dual system and was entitled to have the desegregation decree dissolved as of 1985. Accordingly, the court, again, dissolves that decree. The court also finds that the Student Reassignment Plan ("SRP") implemented in 1985 satisfies the applicable equal protection standards and therefore was within the Board's authority to adopt. The court consequently dismisses this case.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In July, 1963, this court found that the Board had intentionally segregated the schools by race. Dowell v. School Board, 219 F.Supp. 427 (W.D.Okla.1963). After several years of additional litigation over various remedial efforts, this Court in 1972 entered a decree imposing a comprehensive school desegregation plan — the "Finger Plan" — that "was designed not only to assist the Board in satisfying its affirmative desegregation obligation, but also to allow the school district to achieve the ultimate goal — unitary status." Dowell v. Board of Educ., No. Civ. 61-9452 (W.D.Okla., Jan. 18, 1977); Board of Educ. v. Dowell, ___ U.S. ___, 111 S.Ct. 630, 633-34, 112 L.Ed.2d 715 (1991).

In 1977, the School Board moved this court to close the case. After notice and a hearing, the court declared the Oklahoma City school system to be "unitary" and terminated its jurisdiction over the case. The court did not, however, formally dissolve the injunctive decree entered in 1972. The court's order was not appealed.

In 1985, the Board adopted the SRP, which eliminated busing for students in grades 1-4 and assigned those students to their neighborhood elementary schools. Plaintiff moved to "reopen" the case, contending that the school district was not unitary and that the elimination of busing would create ten elementary schools that were at least 90 percent black. After a two-day hearing, this court denied Plaintiffs' motion, ruling that its 1977 finding of unitariness was res judicata and that the neighborhood school plan was, in any event, constitutional. Dowell v. Board of Educ., 606 F.Supp. 1548 (W.D.Okla.1985).

The tenth circuit reversed, holding that this court's 1977 order terminating jurisdiction, while binding on the parties, did not formally dissolve the 1972 injunction. The court of appeals remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether the 1972 injunction should be lifted or otherwise modified to permit the Board to adopt the SRP. Dowell v. Board of Educ., 795 F.2d 1516, 1523 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 938, 107 S.Ct. 420, 93 L.Ed.2d 370 (1986).

In June 1987, this court held an eight-day evidentiary hearing in which it received, in the tenth circuit's words, "a golconda of testimony and exhibits." Dowell v. Board of Educ., 890 F.2d 1483, 1487 (10th Cir. 1989). Relying on the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. United Shoe Machinery Corp., 391 U.S. 244, 88 S.Ct. 1496, 20 L.Ed.2d 562 (1968), this court concluded that the question whether the 1972 decree should be dissolved depended upon "whether the `purposes of the litigation,' as incorporated in the 1972 desegregation decree, have been fully achieved." Dowell v. Board of Educ., 677 F.Supp. 1503 at 1520 (W.D.Okla.1987). After hearing, this court held that its 1977 finding of unitariness had determined that the dual school system had been dismantled and that the purposes of the litigation had thus been achieved. The school district's continued adherence to the Finger Plan from 1977 until 1985 had "further insured that all vestiges of prior state-imposed segregation had been completely removed." Id. at 1522. Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Va., 391 U.S. 430, 88 S.Ct. 1689, 20 L.Ed.2d 716 (1968). The court examined in detail each of the so-called "Green factors" — student assignments, faculty, staff, transportation, extra-curricular activities, and facilities — and concluded with respect to each that the school district had maintained its status as a unitary, nondiscriminatory system. The court also concluded that the ten virtually all black elementary schools resulting from the SRP were caused by residential segregation that could not be attributed to the school district. Perpetuating the busing remedy to eliminate the racial identifiability of these schools would, therefore, "correct" a condition that does not violate the Constitution and thus would exceed the...

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