Oliver v. Kalamazoo Board of Education

Citation368 F. Supp. 143
Decision Date04 October 1973
Docket NumberNo. K-88-71 C.A.,K-88-71 C.A.
PartiesMichele OLIVER, by her father and next friend, Robert Jones, et al., Plaintiffs, v. KALAMAZOO BOARD OF EDUCATION, a body corporate, et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)







Howard & Howard, Kalamazoo, Mich., Louis R. Lucas, Memphis, Tenn., for plaintiffs; Richard A. Enslen and Philip L. Hummer, Kalamazoo, Mich., of counsel.

Ford, Kriekard, Staton & Allen, Kalamazoo, Mich., for Kalamazoo School Board; Arthur Staton, Jr., Kalamazoo, Mich., of counsel.

George F. McCargar, Asst. Atty. Gen., Lansing, Mich., for state defendants.


FOX, Chief Judge.

When matters of great public and constitutional significance come here for resolution, this court assumes an extra duty of care in explaining the reasons for its decision. As always, the court states the factual basis and the legal standards on which its conclusion rests so that the appellate court will know the legal grounds for this court's decision. Equally important, however, this court assumes also an affirmative obligation to attempt to educate the public concerning the basic principles underlying our constitutional democracy and the practical application of these principles in our public affairs. Since the present school desegregation case is of such importance to the people of Kalamazoo and the State of Michigan, this court has gone to great lengths to detail the facts and explain the basic constitutional principles which led the court to its conclusion.

Plaintiffs, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the parents of children attending the public schools of the Kalamazoo, Michigan School District, bring this action on behalf of themselves and their children and all others similarly situated. Their complaint charges that the defendants, the Kalamazoo Board of Education, the Michigan State Board of Education, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, have implemented, developed, maintained, and tolerated public education policies of pupil attendance, staff assignment and facility maintenance which serve to deny plaintiffs equal protection of state law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This court has previously considered and ruled upon the issue of jurisdiction, and, following a full evidentiary hearing, granted plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Oliver v. Kalamazoo Board of Education, 346 F.Supp. 766 (D.C.1971), aff'd, 448 F.2d 635 (6th Cir. 1971). This cause has likewise been found to be a proper Rule 23 class action by way of written opinions both at the time of the preliminary injunction and during trial.

The facts immediately preceding the instigation of suit are summarized in some detail in the court's August 25, 1971 opinion, supra. Following the extensive study of the recognized problems posed by racial isolation in its schools, the Kalamazoo Board of Education adopted, on May 7, 1971, a modified student attendance plan effectively designed to desegregate all elementary schools throughout the district.1 This decision was preceded by similar action earlier in 1971 with respect to the junior and senior high schools. The resolutions involved called for desegregation of all Kalamazoo schools, commencing in September of 1971.

The new attendance policy was immediately controversial. The campaign preceding the regular spring school board election of June 14 saw extensive popular interest and heated debate concerning the newly adjusted attendance zones. As a result of the election, two vacancies on the board, previously held by individuals who had supported the desegregation effort, were filled by persons strongly opposed to the May 7 action.

Subsequently on July 6, 1971, six days after the new members assumed their offices, the board voted to reinstate the traditional attendance boundaries as they existed before May 7. At the same time, the newly composed board pressed for and, on July 9, secured the resignation of the district's superintendent, Dr. John Cochran, who still had two years remaining on a three-year employment contract.

Plaintiffs filed suit in this court on August 12, 1971. Initially, they requested and obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent the implementation of the July 6 board resolution pending a hearing to test the resolution's constitutionality. After a hearing on August 24 and 25, 1971, the court issued a preliminary injunction declaring the July 6 resolution unconstitutional and void, and ordering the defendants to implement the May 7 plan as scheduled, pending a full trial on the merits of the plaintiffs' complaint. This injunction was subsequently modified on October 7, 1971, to restrain the Kalamazoo Board from dismissing all nontenured teachers.2

On February 28, 1973, following vast effort in discovery and trial preparation by all parties and the court, trial began. At this time, the Denver case was before the United States Supreme Court, and no decision has yet been handed down. Keyes v. School District No. 1, 413 U.S. 189, 93 S.Ct. 2686, 37 L.Ed.2d 548 (1973). In the prevailing uncertainty, in an abundance of caution, and by agreement of the parties, the court decided as a procedural matter that the parties would present proofs in the usual order. The plaintiffs presented their entire case; the defendants submitted their entire case; and the plaintiffs then offered rebuttal. The burden of going forward on an issue was not procedurally shifted to the other side as a result of a particular line of inquiry. It was agreed that the then existing requirements of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S.Ct. 1267, 28 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971), would be met within the framework of this procedure. This course was taken with the complete understanding that each party would be given a full opportunity to present every conceivable theory of law and all relevant evidence within the disputed areas.

Thus, each party was given the full opportunity to present its case without particular procedural complications. Although it noted objections from each side to the introduction of certain evidence and to the mode or line of particular questions, the court usually reserved ruling and was most liberal in allowing the presentation of evidence and argumentative analysis.

The anticipated Keyes decision, whatever it was, could not possibly require a new round of evidentiary hearings; each party was given the fullest opportunity for hearing consistent with the demands of judicial economy, and the court assured itself of the benefit of all views concerning the complex issues in the case. Six weeks of trial produced more than four thousand pages of testimony and nearly two thousand exhibits. More than one hundred written pages of factual stipulations are included in the record.


The complaint in this case alleges a constitutional violation involving an inequity or inequality in public education deliberately created, maintained, and perpetuated by the State. Initially, the court must determine whether a condition of educational inequity has existed in Kalamazoo.

This inquiry, in turn, is launched with recognition of the uncontroverted threshold proposition that, defined in terms of disproportionate racial concentration, regardless of cause, the Kalamazoo School District historically, and especially in recent times, has been racially segregated at all levels of the school system and at a significant number of schools.3 Reflecting a pattern which had evolved steadily since before 1940, the school racial census figures for 1959 reveal that several elementary schools were racially identifiable. Roosevelt was 23.3% Black; North Westnedge 22.1%; Harding 13.8%; Edison 13.4%. Lincoln was a combined elementary and junior high, with 62.2% of the students being Black. Of all the students in the district, only 7.5% were Black at that time.

The more complete school racial census figures for 1969 indicate that the historical trend toward racially identifiable schools had continued and even accelerated in the decade of the 1960's. Of the 29 regular elementary schools, 5 contained 92.3% of all Black elementary children. In a system in which 16.1% of the elementary children were Black, Lincoln school was 95.6% Black; Northglade 87.2% Black; Woodward 53.8% Black; Roosevelt 38.8% Black; and Edison 17.1% Black. With the exception of McKinley and West Main, which were 8.8% and 7.4% Black, respectively, all of the remaining elementary schools in the Kalamazoo district contained no more than 5% Black children. The 1969 statistics further reveal that 14 of these schools educated less than 5 Black students each, while six, Fairview, Greenwood, Milwood, Oakwood, Parkwood and Peter Pan, held no Black pupils.

In 1969, Kalamazoo had 5 junior high schools. Of the total junior high student population, 14.7% was Black. Two junior highs, Milwood and Oakwood, contained a combined total of 27 Black students. Only 1.7% of the students attending each of these schools was Black. This left 95.5% of Kalamazoo's Black junior high pupils to attend South, Hillside and Northeastern in proportions of 26.2%, 24.6% and 13.9%, respectively. At the senior high level, one of the district's two schools enrolled virtually all of the Black senior high school students. The 1969 figures show that 93% of these Black students attended Central High School, making that school 19.7% Black, while the remainder attended Loy Norrix High School, making that school 1.6% Black.

Responsible state and Kalamazoo authorities regarded Kalamazoo public schools as segregated in 1969. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission's "Report and Recommendations into the Status of Race Relations in the City of Kalamazoo," published in 1969...

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