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HOBSON v. HANSEN

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


June 19, 1967

Julius W. HOBSON, individually and on behalf of Jean Marie Hobson and Julius W. HOBSON, Jr., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Carl F. HANSEN, Superintendent of Schools of the District of Columbia, the Board of Education of the District of Columbia et al., Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: WRIGHT

J. SKELLY WRIGHT, Circuit Judge:

SUMMARY

 In Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 74 S. Ct. 693, 98 L. Ed. 884 (1954), the Supreme Court held that the District of Columbia's racially segregated public school system violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The present litigation, brought in behalf of Negro as well as poor children generally in the District's public schools, tests the current compliance of those schools with the principles announced in Bolling, its companion case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954), and their progeny. The basic question presented is whether the defendants, the Superintendent of Schools and the members of the Board of Education, in the operation of the public school system here, unconstitutionally deprive the District's Negro and poor public school children of their right to equal educational opportunity with the District's white and more affluent public school children. This court concludes that they do.

 In support of this conclusion the court makes the following principal findings of fact:

 1. Racially and socially homogeneous schools damage the minds and spirit of all children who attend them - the Negro, the white, the poor and the affluent - and block the attainment of the broader goals of democratic education, whether the segregation occurs by law or by fact.

 2. The scholastic achievement of the disadvantaged child, Negro and white, is strongly related to the racial and socioeconomic composition of the student body of his school. A racially and socially integrated school environment increases the scholastic achievement of the disadvantaged child of whatever race.

 3. The Board of Education, which is the statutory head of the public schools in the District, is appointed pursuant to a quota system which, until 1962, for over half a century had limited the Negro membership of the nine-man Board to three. Since 1962 the Negro quota on the Board has been four, one less than a majority. The city of Washington, which is the District of Columbia, presently has a population over 60% Negro and a public school population over 90% Negro.

 4. Adherence to the neighborhood school policy by the School Board effectively segregates the Negro and the poor children from the white and the more affluent children in most of the District's public schools. This neighborhood school policy is relaxed by the Board through the use of optional zones for the purpose of allowing white children, usually affluent white children, "trapped" in a Negro school district, to "escape" to a "white" or more nearly white school, thus making the economic and racial segregation of the public school children more complete than it would otherwise be under a strict neighborhood school assignment plan.

 5. The teachers and principals in the public schools are assigned so that generally the race of the faculty is the same as the race of the children. Thus most of the schools can be identified as "Negro" or "white," not only by reference to the predominant race of the children attending, but by the predominant race of the faculty as well. The heaviest concentration of Negro faculty, usually 100%, is in the Negro ghetto schools.

 6. The median annual per pupil expenditure ($292) in the predominantly (85-100%) Negro elementary schools in the District of Columbia has been a flat $100 below the median annual per pupil expenditure for its predominantly (85-100%) white schools ($392).

 7. Generally the "white" schools are underpopulated while the "Negro" schools generally are overcrowded. Moreover, all of the white elementary schools have kindergartens. Some Negro schools are without kindergartens entirely while other Negro schools operate kindergartens in shifts or consecutive sessions. In addition to being overcrowded and short on kindergarten space, the school buildings in the Negro slums are ancient and run down. Only recently, through the use of impact aid and other federal funds, have the Negro slum schools had sufficient textbooks for the children's use.

 8. As they proceed through the Washington school system, the reading scores primarily of the Negro and poor children, but not the white and middle class, fall increasingly behind the national norm. By senior high school the discrepancy reaches several grades.

 9. The track system as used in the District's public schools is a form of ability grouping in which students are divided in separate, self-contained curricula or tracks ranging from "Basic" for the slow student to "Honors" for the gifted.

 10. The aptitude tests used to assign children to the various tracks are standardized primarily on white middle class children. Since these tests do not relate to the Negro and disadvantaged child, track assignment based on such tests relegates Negro and disadvantaged children to the lower tracks from which, because of the reduced curricula and the absence of adequate remedial and compensatory education, as well as continued inappropriate testing, the chance of escape is remote.

 11. Education in the lower tracks is geared to what Dr. Hansen, the creator of the track system, calls the "blue collar" student. Thus such children, so stigmatized by inappropriate aptitude testing procedures, are denied equal opportunity to obtain the white collar education available to the white and more affluent children.

 Other incidental, but highly indicative, findings are as follows: a. The June 1964 - December 1965 study by the Office of the Surgeon General, Army, shows that 55.3% of the 18-year-olds from the District of Columbia failed the Armed Services mental test, a higher percentage than any of the 50 states. b. The average per pupil expenditure in the District's public schools is only slightly below the national average. The 1964-65 Bureau of the Census Report on Governmental Finances shows, however, that the District of Columbia spends less per capita on education generally than all states except Arkansas and Tennessee. c. The same report shows that the District of Columbia spends more per capita on police protection than all states without exception. In fact, the District of Columbia spends more than double any state other than Nevada, New York, New Jersey and California. The inferences, including those bearing on the relationship of the quality of education to crime, which arise from these findings are obvious. Indeed, the National Crime Commission's Task Force Report: Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime indicates that the very deficiencies in the District's public school system noted by the record in this case - prejudging, through inappropriate testing, the learning abilities of the disadvantaged child as inferior to the white middle class child; placing the child in lower tracks for reduced education based on such tests, thus implementing the self-fulfilling prophecy phenomenon inherent in such misjudgments; placing inferior teachers in slum schools; continuing racial and economic segregation of pupils; providing textbooks unrelated to the lives of disadvantaged children; inadequate remedial programs for offsetting initial psychological and social difficulties of the disadvantaged child - all have contributed to the increase in crime, particularly juvenile crime.

 In sum, all of the evidence in this case tends to show that the Washington school system is a monument to the cynicism of the power structure which governs the voteless capital of the greatest country on earth.

 Remedy

 To correct the racial and economic discrimination found in the operation of the District of Columbia public school system, the court has issued a decree attached to its opinion ordering: 1. An injunction against racial and economic discrimination in the public school system here. 2. Abolition of the track system. 3. Abolition of the optional zones. 4. Transportation for volunteering children in overcrowded school districts east of Rock Creek Park to underpopulated schools west of the Park. 5. The defendants, by October 2, 1967, to file for approval by the court a plan for pupil assignment eliminating the racial and economic discrimination found to exist in the operation of the Washington public school system. 6. Substantial integration of the faculty of each school beginning with the school year 1967-68. 7. The defendants, by October 2, 1967, to file for approval by the court a teacher assignment plan fully integrating the faculty of each school.

  The United States is invited to intervene in these proceedings to assist in implementing the decree, to suggest changes in the decree, and to take whatever other steps it deems appropriate in the interest of public education in the District of Columbia.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 I. STUDENT SEGREGATION

 A. De Jure Segregation and Bolling v. Sharpe.

 Until 1954 the public schools in the District of Columbia were racially segregated by law. *fn1" The school system was divided up into Division I (white) and Division II (Negro), each with its own elementary and junior and senior high schools, each with teaching and administrative personnel of the one race only. The two Divisions were capped at the top by a single Superintendent. A few administrative committees also cut across Division lines.

 The Negro schools, though entirely disjointed from Division I, were denied the consolation of equality which the separate-but-equal doctrine had promised. In 1949 the monumental Strayer Report *fn2" thoroughly documented the comparative inferiority of Division II: its classrooms were considerably more crowded, its buildings older and shabbier, its curricula narrower, its counseling services less adequate, its supplies more scarce. *fn3"

 The next year our Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the District's segregated school system, Judge Edgerton dissenting. Carr v. Corning, 86 U.S.App.D.C. 173, 182 F.2d 14 (1950). Only months later, however, the Supreme Court issued decisions which clearly threatened the viability of the separatebut-equal doctrine as it applied to public school education. Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 70 S. Ct. 848, 94 L. Ed. 1114 (1950); McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637, 70 S. Ct. 851, 94 L. Ed. 1149 (1950). Heedful that this doctrine was in its twilight, in the early fifties the school administration began readying itself for desegregation should that be decreed. Participating in these explorations was Dr. Carl F. Hansen, then in charge of Division I elementary schools and of the curriculum for all schools, and since 1958 the Superintendent of Schools.

 In 1950 seven Negro students, of whom Spottswood T. Bolling was alphabetically the first, filed suit in federal court seeking admission to Sousa Junior High, a Division I school. On May 19, 1954, in Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 74 S. Ct. 693, 98 L. Ed. 884, the companion case to Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in Washington's schools was incompatible with the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. For the argument on remedy Bolling and Brown were consolidated. A year and two weeks after Brown I, the Court in Brown II, 349 U.S. 294, 75 S. Ct. 753, 99 L. Ed. 1083 (1955), issued its famous decree of "all deliberate speed" and, noting that "[substantial] progress has been made in the District," supra at 299, 75 S. Ct. at 756, remanded Bolling to the District of Columbia federal district court. A month later, whether because by that time plaintiffs had all graduated from the District's schools or for other reasons, the Bolling action was dismissed.

 B. The Board's Desegregation Plan.

 1. As the Board of Education correctly understood, the Bolling decision affected the constitutional rights not of the complainants alone but of the entire Negro community in the District. Accordingly, within the week after Bolling and Brown I, the Board of Education released a plan for desegregation, one drawn up tentatively by the school administration the year before, widely known as the Corning Plan after the then Superintendent. By the opening of school in September 1955 it was in full effect.

 As for placement of students, the plan embraced and asserted a policy, with modifications, of neighborhood schools. That is, geographical boundaries were traced around each school, the school somewhere near the center of the defined area; with the significant exceptions noted below in Sections I-D-3 and I-E of these findings, students attending public school and residing within each enclosure were required to go to the school inside that enclosure. (Tr. 135). Elementary school districts were kept compact enough so that most youngsters could easily walk to the schools from their homes, usually a distance of less than half a mile. (Tr. 3728, 3730.) Junior high school zones were of greater size - several elementary schools "feeding" into one junior high - and senior high zones were more inclusive still. *fn4"

 2. Neighborhood elementary schools have undeniable advantages. Neither school nor parents need bear any transportation expenses, since the school is within walking distance of home. For the same reason, the safety hazards and the expense of time involved in getting from home to school are held at a minimum; also, students may conveniently return home for lunch, and, with no school bus to catch, may linger after school with school work or after-school activities. Locating schools within the neighborhoods facilitates a closer relationship between school and parents, and gives the student a chance to make friends during the school day with the children of his own age who live near his home. (Tr. 3120-3121; 4047-4049; 5031-5035; 6091-6094, 6194-6196.)

 For junior and senior high schools, however, the relevant "neighborhoods" so expand that the advantages said to accrue with neighborhood schools in great part attenuate. (See Tr. 198.) As shown above, those advantages primarily depend on a neighborhood school only a reasonable walk from home; and the maps of school zone lines in the city make it clear that most Washington secondary school students must rely on some form of transportation in getting to and from school.

 C. Washington Residential Patterns. Adoption of a neighborhood policy for student assignment inevitably impresses the racial residential patterns within the city on the schools with dramatic consequences. This section of the findings, drawing on evidence scattered through the exhibits, will try to sketch those patterns in the large. Below, to begin, are figures graphing the gradual displacement of whites by Negroes in the city and in its schools. Per Cent Per Cent Negro Negro Year City School 1900 32% 1930 27% 32% 1940 28% 39% 1950 35% 50.1% 1953 40% 56.8% 1960 55% 79.7% 1965 61% 89.4% 1966 90.2%

19670619

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



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