Town of Waterford v. Connecticut State Bd. of Ed.

Decision Date11 April 1961
Citation169 A.2d 891,148 Conn. 238
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesTOWN OF WATERFORD v. CONNECTICUT STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut

Edmund W. O'Brien, New London, for appellant (plaintiff).

Louis Weinstein, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom, on the brief, was Albert L. Coles, Atty. Gen., for appellee (defendant).


BALDWIN, Chief Justice.

The plaintiff, the town of Waterford, brought this action in two counts. We follow the trial court in treating the first count as an appeal from an order of the defendant, the state board of education, requiring the plaintiff to provide transportation for certain pupils attending the Jordan School in Waterford; General Statutes § 10-187; and in treating the second count as raising the question of the power of the defendant to enter the order. General Statutes §§ 10-186, 10-220. The court held, in substance, that the defendant was empowered under the statutes to issue the order, that the procedural requirements for the issuance of the order had been met, and that the order was reasonable. The court dismissed the appeal as set forth in the first count and found the issues for the defendant on the second count. The plaintiff has appealed.

We will consider first the claims made under the second count. Sections 10-186 and 10-187, and the pertinent provisions of § 10-220, are set forth in the footnote. 1 The plaintiff claims, in effect, that the failure of a town board of education to furnish transportation does not constitute a failure to furnish school accommodations under § 10-186. It argues that § 10-186 and § 10-220 are two separate and distinct statutes, each designed to enable parents to comply with § 10-184, which requires parents and those having control of children over seven and under sixteen years of age to send them to a public school or to show that they are securing equivalent instruction elsewhere. The plaintiff argues further that the defendant does not have the power to control all the details of how '[e]ach town shall furnish, by transportation or otherwise, school accommodations.' § 10-186. It is true that the history of the legislation relating to the transportation of school children began with a statute which provided that when any school in a town was discontinued (presumably for lack of a sufficient number of pupils), the town should 'furnish, whenever necessary, by transportation or otherwise, school accommodations so that every child over seven and under sixteen' could attend some school. 2 Apparently, this legislation was designed, originally, to make schooling available, without the necessity of a child's walking unreasonable distances, to every child required by law to attend school. The distance from the child's home to the school was the sole determining factor on the question of transportation. It appears that the Waterford board of education still follows this criterion. Its secretary testified that it was the board's policy to provide transportation only for children living one or more miles from an available school.

In 1931, the General Assembly enacted chapter 249, § 7, of the 1931 Public Acts; Sup.1931, § 171a; as amended, Cum.Sup.1935, § 296c (now General Statutes § 10-220); which eliminated the permissive power implicit in the words 'may provide * * * transportation' which were contained in § 974 of the 1930 Revision and its predecessors. The language in the present statute, § 10-220, '* * * shall make such provisions as will enable each child of school age * * * to attend some public day school * * * and provide for the transportation of children wherever transportation is reasonable and desirable * * *,' comprehends not only distance but safety factors. See Snyder v. Newtown, 147 Conn. 374, 382, 391, 161 A.2d 770. Reading §§ 10-186 and 10-220 together, as they must be read, we conclude that the failure of a town to provide the transportation which is reasonable and desirable (§ 10-220) for the safety of the children attending the particular school they are required to attend constitutes a failure to furnish school accommodations within § 10-186. Stating it another way, the duty to 'furnish, by transportation or otherwise, school accommodations' (§ 10-186) means that a town shall provide a proper school building, staffed with legally competent teachers, and transportation to that school if the distance from the pupils' homes to the school or the hazards they may encounter on their way to and from school, or both, make transportation reasonable and desirable. Whether the town has fulfilled its duty can be questioned by a parent or guardian or by an official who has the duty of enforcing the laws concerning school attendance. A hearing before the local board can be requested. A person aggrieved by the local board's finding may appeal to the state board of education, as was done in the case at bar. An appeal lies from the finding of the state board to the Superior Court, § 10-187. It is true that the state board cannot dictate, as between reasonable alternatives, what the local board shall provide, but the state board can require a reasonable compliance with the general mandate contained in the statutes. The claim of the parents here was that transportation was required because of traffic hazards which imperiled their children in walking to and from school. The order of the state board of education does not require, necessarily, that the town provide sidewalks and safety guards. It states that transportation shall be furnished until such walks and necessary crossing guards are provided along route 1A. If sidewalks and necessary crossing guards are not provided, the local board still has the alternative of providing transportation or of presenting to the state board some other adequate method of dealing with the traffic hazard and seeking a modification of the order. The trial court was correct in its conclusion that the defendant was empowered by § 10-186 to issue the order.

The plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of § 10-186 on the ground that it fails to provide legislative standards for the proper guidance of the state board. Towns and local boards of education are creatures of the state, and though they may question the interpretation, they cannot challenge the legality, of legislation enacted by their creator. New Haven v. New Haven Water Co., 132 Conn. 496, 513, 45 A.2d 831; Sanger v. Bridgeport, 124 Conn. 183, 188, 198 A. 746; 116 A.L.R. 1031. This claim is without merit.

We will consider now the first count which, as an appeal to the Superior Court from the defendant's action, raises the question whether the court concluded correctly that the action of the defendant was not illegal by reason of the fact that it failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the statutes, and that its action was not unreasonable and arbitrary. The transcript of the hearing, conducted by Dr. Theodore Powell as a hearing officer for the defendant, and the exhibits offered at the hearing disclose the following facts: On November 5, 1958, Jennette M. Neilan and Philip L. Stocklin addressed a letter to the chairman of the Waterford board of education enclosing a petition containing about 240 signatures representing approximately 180 families having 290 children in attendance at the Jordan School. This school is located near the junction of route 1A and route 156. The petitioners claimed that the safety of their children was jeopardized by the traffic and topographical hazards encountered by them on their way to school. Although the children lived less than a mile from the school, and a mile was the minimum distance for which transportation was furnished by the Waterford board, the petitioners requested that transportation be provided until safe sidewalks could be constructed and other precautionary measures taken. The local board conducted a hearing and denied the petition. One hundred and nine of the families then appealed to the defendant.

Dr. Powell, one of six members of the staff of the state department of education who had been designated by the defendant's chairman as school transportation hearing officers, conducted a public hearing in Waterford on February 6, 1959. Because the children attending the Jordan school lived in different areas, although in the same general neighborhood, and those living in each area faced similar traffic conditions on their way to and from school, the children were placed, with the approval of the appellants and a representative of the local board, in six separate categories. Dr. Powell asked those present at the hearing, including members of the Waterford board, whether there would be any objection if he examined the routes traveled by the children to the school. There being none, he, accompanied by the secretary of the Waterford board, one of the appellants and a representative of the defendant, made an investigation of these routes after the hearing. He subsequently, on February 18, inspected the routes a second time, alone. He noted that route 1A, both east and west of the school, was a main highway leading west from New London and was very heavily traveled by fast moving vehicular traffic, and that in some places children going to and from the school had to walk very near the edge of the traveled portion of the highway, owing to topographical features. He prepared a report recommending transportation for the children in three of the six categories and measures designed to improve safety for the children in the other three categories.

The court made a limited finding of facts pertaining to the administrative procedure followed by the defendant in calling and conducting the hearing and issuing its order. The plaintiff has assigned error in this finding because the court failed to incorporate certain paragraphs of the draft finding. We shall take into consideration the facts stated in these paragraphs which...

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    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 13, 2012
    ...only powers a municipal corporation has are those which are expressly granted to it by the state''); Waterford v. State Board of Education, 148 Conn. 238, 245, 169 A.2d 891 (1961) (''local boards of education are creatures of the state,'' exercising only such powers that state has con-ferre......
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