Jackson v. Pasadena City School District

Decision Date27 June 1963
Citation59 Cal.2d 876,382 P.2d 878,31 Cal.Rptr. 606
Parties, 382 P.2d 878 Jay R. JACKSON, Jr., a Minor, etc., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. PASADENA CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants and Respondents. L. A. 26705.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

Samuel C. Sheats, Loren Miller and A. L. Wirin, Los Angeles, for plaintiff and appellant.

Stanley Mosk, Atty. Gen., Robert E. Burke, Deputy Atty. Gen., and Herbert Bernhard, as amici curiae on behalf of plaintiff and appellant.

Harold W. Kennedy, County Counsel, James W. Briggs and Ronald W. Schneider, Deputy County Counsel, for defendants and respondents.

GIBSON, Chief Justice.

Jay Jackson, a 13-year-old Negro boy, brought this mandamus proceeding to compel defendants to permit him to transfer from the Washington Junior High School to the Eliot Junior High School. Defendants' demurrer was sustained without leave to amend, and this appeal is from the ensuing judgment. The allegations of the complaint are summarized below.

Prior to July 1961 the Pasadena City School District contained a number of junior high school zones, including Washington, McKinley, and Eliot. The McKinley zone is immediately south of Washington, and Eliot is immediately north of Washington. Extending along the western boundary of the Washington zone and, to a lesser extent, along a portion of the western boundary of the McKinley zone was the Linda Vista Elementary School zone. Because of the withdrawal from the Pasadena district of a junior high school which pupils of the Linda Vista area formerly attended, it became necessary to determine which junior high school they would attend in the Pasadena district. The Linda Vista area is in the main closer to Washington than to any other junior high school in the district. Certain residents of Linda Vista became alarmed at the possibility that pupils from that area, none of whom was a Negro, might be required to attend Washington, which has an enrollment predominantly of Negroes and members of other minority groups. They urged defendant board to assign the Linda Vista pupils to McKinley, which contains a considerably smaller proportion of Negroes, and threatened to seek withdrawal of Linda Vista from the district if this were not done. In July 1961 the board adopted zone boundaries for junior high schools, and, instead of placing the Linda Vista area in the Washington zone, the board arbitrarily gerrymandered the McKinley zone to include that area. This was done for the purpose of instituting, maintaining, and intensifying racial segregation at Washington, relegating to a single junior high school a substantial proportion of all Negro pupils, and permitting most white pupils to avoid attendance at schools where substantial numbers of Negroes are enrolled. As so established, Washington is a racially segregated school which is inherently inferior to other junior high schools in the district. Plaintiff, who resides in the Washington zone, is required by the board to attend the Washington school, with the result that he is denied equal opportunity for public school education. Plaintiff's request for a transfer to Eliot, which is convenient for him to attend, was denied by the board.

In support of the contention that the complaint does not state a cause of action it is argued that the allegations that Washington is a racially segregated school and that the McKinley zone was gerrymandered to include the Linda Vista area within it are conclusions of law which are not admitted by demurrer. The distinction between ultimate facts and conclusions of law involves at most a matter of degree. The particularity required in pleading facts depends on the extent to which the defendant in fairness needs detailed information that can be conveniently provided by the plaintiff; less particularity is required where the defendant may be assumed to have knowledge of the facts equal to that possessed by the plaintiff. (Burks v. Poppy Construction Co., 57 Cal.2d 463, 473-474, 20 Cal.Rptr. 609, 370 P.2d 313.) The averments with respect to racial segregation and gerrymandering should be treated on general demurrer as allegations of ultimate facts and not mere conclusions of law.

A local board of education has power, in the exercise of reasonable discretion, to establish school attendance zones within the district, to determine the area that a particular school shall serve, and to require the students in that area to attend that school. (Ed.Code, § 984, subd. (a); see 29 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 63 (1957); Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen.No.7800 (Nov. 3, 1931).) It is obvious, however, that the general powers of the board with respect to attendance zones are subject to the constitutional guaranties of equal protection and due process.

The segregation of school children into separate schools because of their race, even though the physical facilities and the methods and quality of instruction in the several schools may be equal, deprives the children of the minority group of equal opportunities for education and denies them equal protection and due process of the law. (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 493-495, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873; Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 499-500, 74 S.Ct. 693, 98 L.Ed. 884.) In view of the importance of education to society and to the individual child, the opportunity to receive the schooling furnished by the state must be made available to all on an equal basis. Because of intangible considerations relating to the ability to learn and exchange views with other students, segregated professional schools have been held not to provide equal educational opportunities, and such considerations apply with added force to children in grade and high schools. The separation of children from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of race may produce a feeling of inferiority which can never be removed and which has a tendency to retard their motivation to learn and their mental development. (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 493-494, 74 S.Ct....

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