ARMSTRONG v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, ALA. Civ. A. Nos. 9678, 10188.
220 F.Supp. 217 (1963)
Dwight ARMSTRONG et al., Plaintiffs, v. The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants. Agnes NELSON and Oswald Nelson, Minors, etc., Plaintiffs v. The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.
United States District Court N. D. Alabama, S. D.
May 28, 1963.
J. M. Breckenridge, City Atty., Cabaniss & Johnston, Joseph F. Johnston, Lange, Simpson, Robinson & Somerville, Reid B. Barnes and Ormond Somerville, Birmingham, Ala., for defendants.
LYNNE, District Judge.
When the Armstrong case (C.A. 9678) was called for trial on October 3, 1962, plaintiffs in the Nelson case (C.A. 10,188) moved for an order of consolidation or joint trial. Since it appeared that these actions involved common questions of law and fact the court entered an oral order consolidating them for purpose of trial only and expressly provided therein that all evidence offered and all objections thereto on any grounds made by any party would be deemed to have been offered and made in each case separately.
Resting jurisdiction upon 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343(3) and proceeding under 42 U.S. C.A. § 1983, plaintiffs in each case brought a class action against defendants essentially to enjoin them from continuing their policy, practice, custom and usage of operating a compulsory biracial school system in the City of Birmingham.
By stipulation of all counsel of record each case was submitted for the judgment of the court upon the prayer for final injunctive relief upon the pleadings and the proof. While written answers in behalf of defendants had not been filed in the Nelson case it was orally stated that their answers in the Armstrong case tendered all relevant issues except for the insistence that plaintiffs in the Nelson case had no standing to maintain their action for vindication of their individual rights or to represent a class.
Faced with this threshold question, the court directed that evidence first be offered relating to the status of the Nelson children, Agnes and Oswald, of the ages of sixteen and twelve, respectively. Consisting entirely of the testimony of their father, Reverend T. N. Nelson, careful consideration thereof results in the finding of the court that each of such children had departed Birmingham for Detroit several weeks before the filing of the complaint in their behalf; that throughout the trial they were living there with their sister and attending the public schools of Wayne County, Michigan, and that there is no reasonable probability of their return to Birmingham.
Since the father has no standing to sue for the deprivation of the civil rights of his children, Brown v. Board of Trustees of LaGrange Ind. Sch. Dist.,
Therefore, a separate order will be entered in the Nelson case vacating the consolidation and dismissing the action for plaintiffs' lack of standing to sue without prejudice, however, to their right to intervene or file a supplemental complaint in the Armstrong case in the event of the return of either to Birmingham, as will hereinafter more fully appear.
With respect to standing to complain, matters stand differently in the Armstrong case. Although it was stipulated at the trial that the Shuttlesworth children, Ruby Fredericka and Fred L. Jr., and Carolyn Nash are no longer in the Birmingham public school system and do not intend to return thereto, it is undisputed that the Armstrong children, Dwight, Denise, James, Jr. and Floyd, have continuously been and are presently enrolled in such system. They have an equitable right to maintain this suit as a class action.
Plaintiffs rely upon undisputed facts in the record which are reproduced in capsulated form. The white population of Birmingham is 205,620; the Negro, 135,627. There are 8 high schools designated
To summarize, it graphically appears from the testimony of Dr. Theo R. Wright, Superintendent of Birmingham Public Schools, that he and the Birmingham Board of Education have operated a segregated school system based upon race in the past, are doing so now, and have formulated no plans to discontinue such an operation.
For their part, the real defendants, Superintendent and Board, advert to the allegation of the complaint that "the plaintiffs herein have not exhausted the administrative remedy [sic] provided by the Alabama School Placement Law"
Charts, representing the results of Kuhlmann-Anderson Tests administered to pupils upon entering the first grade, California Mental Maturity Tests, Stanford Achievement Tests, and California Achievement Tests, all administered without reference to pending litigation, comparing the performances of white and Negro pupils in the same grade groups, were received in evidence as relevant to the contention of defendants that there are distinct differences in the average or mean mental abilities of the two groups which they are obliged to take into account in maintaining a sound educational program.
Of course the starting point in any school segregation case must be Brown v. Board of Education,
Insofar as the opinions of experts in the fields of psychology and anthropology, in deposition, book and pamphlet form, may constitute an attack upon the major premise of the court, they are rejected out of hand. It would be supererogation to labor the obvious, that this court is bound by the opinions and judgments of the Supreme Court.
But the problem does not end there, for district courts have been invested with and are expected honestly and fairly to exercise discretion in the enormous task of desegregating public schools. The course which this court should follow was staked out in its opinion in Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Board of Education,
The Supreme Court, on direct appeal, granted the motion to affirm and affirmed the judgment upon the limited grounds, quoted directly above, on which this court rested its decision. Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Bd. of Education,
As this court sees it, the law of this case is that the Alabama School Placement Law "furnishes the legal machinery for an orderly administration of the public schools in a constitutional manner by the admission of qualified pupils upon a basis of individual merit without regard to their race or color". Under that law the initiative is with the individual pupil, or those authorized to act in his behalf, to apply for assignment or transfer. Before this court may grant injunctive relief, the administrative remedies provided therein must first have been exhausted.
Although the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has on frequent occasions come to grips with school segregation problems and has been especially alert to strike down deviations by district courts from the constitutional norm of Brown in sometimes trenchant opinions delivered by able judges,
On the other hand, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has dealt frequently with the North Carolina Pupil Enrollment Act, strikingly parallel to the Alabama Law. In Carson v. Warlick,
In an unbroken line of decisions
Superintendent and Board have assured this court that discrete desegregation would be much less disruptive than massive integration. They insist that in implementation of the Alabama Law regulations
Adequate time remains before the opening of the September, 1963, school term for the processing of applications for assignments or transfers in behalf of interested individuals. Jurisdiction of this action will be retained for the purpose of permitting the filing of such supplemental complaint, if any, as might be entitled to be presented, in case of any unconstitutional application of the Alabama School Placement Law against the plaintiffs, or others similarly situated, or of any other unconstitutional action on the part of defendants against them. The issues tendered by any supplemental complaint will be given a preferred setting on the docket of this court and will be heard on five days notice to defendants.
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