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HOOTS v. PENNSYLVANIA

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


May 15, 1973

Dorothy HOOTS, Individually and as mother of her children Janelle Hoots and Jamie Hoots, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA et al., Defendants

Weber, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

Weber, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

 This is a suit under the federal Civil Rights Act in which plaintiffs, as representatives of a class, allege that residents of the Borough of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, have been deprived of rights, privileges and immunities guaranteed them by the laws and Constitution of the United States by being forced to attend and send their children to a racially segregated school district created by the actions of the various defendants in preparing, approving and adopting plans of reorganization and consolidation of school districts in Allegheny County, particularly that creating the General Braddock Area School District, known as Administrative Unit No. 16, within whose boundaries these plaintiffs reside, and the approval of reorganization of surrounding school districts made at about the same time.

 A great many of the factual issues in this case were resolved by agreement and stipulation. The statistical data submitted into evidence of the trial was received largely without objection. The defendants submitted two documents as exhibits but offered no testimony. As a result we find the facts to be almost entirely in accord with those findings proposed by plaintiffs' counsel after the close of the evidence. The findings are sufficiently detailed so as to allow us to proceed without a further narrative account of the background of this litigation.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 A. Parties

 1. Plaintiffs include Addrallace Knight and Barbara Smith.

 2. Plaintiff Addrallace Knight is a black woman who has resided in the Borough of Braddock, Pennsylvania, for 20 years and is the mother of three children presently enrolled in the public schools of the General Braddock Area School District in grades 2, 4 and 12, of three children formerly enrolled and still eligible to be enrolled in the public schools of the General Braddock School District, and of two children in college who graduated from the School Districts of Braddock and the General Braddock Area, respectively. *fn1" T. 2, T. 30.

 3. Plaintiff Barbara Smith is a black woman who has resided in the Borough of Braddock for 28 years and is the mother of children enrolled in the public schools of the General Braddock Area School District in grades 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and 11. T. 63, 64.

 4. Plaintiffs Addrallace Knight and Barbara Smith instituted this suit to alter the boundaries of the General Braddock Area School District. T. 30, 63.

 5. Named Plaintiffs bring the suit as a class action on behalf of all parents and children residing in the boroughs of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin. Named Plaintiffs' claims are typical of the claims of the class and named Plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. T. 40, 46, 100, 101.

 6. Defendant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the duty under Article III, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, P.S., to maintain and support a thorough and efficient public school system. (Paragraph 35 of Plaintiffs' Complaint, Admitted.)

 7. Defendant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the ultimate power, authority and responsibility to create school districts and to establish and alter boundaries of the areas served by said school districts. (Paragraph 36 of Plaintiffs' Complaint, Admitted.)

 8. Defendant Pennsylvania State Board of Education ["State Board"] is a state administrative board charged with the general supervision and control of the educational interests of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Defendant W. Deming Lewis is the Chairman of that Board. (Paragraphs 33 and 34 of Plaintiffs' Complaint, Admitted.)

 9. Defendant Allegheny Intermediate Unit Board of School Directors is an administrative body which became operative as of July 1, 1971 and is charged with providing the essential services formally provided by the Allegheny County Board of School Directors ["County Board"] and with the administration of the program of services of Intermediate Unit 3 comprising all school districts in the County of Allegheny outside of the City of Pittsburgh, and Defendant Edward X. Hallenberg is the President of such Board. (Paragraphs 38(b) and 38(c) of Plaintiffs' Complaint, Admitted.)

 B. School Reorganization Legislation and Standards.

 10. During the 1960's the Pennsylvania Legislature on three occasions enacted legislation to reorganize the administrative units (i.e. school districts) in Pennsylvania's public school systems.

 (a) the first Act -- the Act of September 12, 1961, P.L. 1283, No. 561, 24 P.S. § 2-281 et seq. (Act 561) -- directed each county board of school directors to prepare on or before January 1, 1963 a plan of organization of administrative units for the County for review by the State Council of Education. 24 P.S. §§ 2-282, 2-283. *fn2" S. 1.

 (b) Act 561 was superseded by the Act of August 8, 1963, P.L. 564, No. 299, 24 P.S. § 2-290 et seq. (Act 299). Act 299 directed each county board of school directors to prepare on or before July 1, 1964 a plan of organization of administrative units for the county and directed the State Council of Basic Education to review organization plans prepared by the county boards and to approve such plans as it deemed wise in the best interest of the educational system of the Commonwealth, provided that these plans met certain requirements specified in Act 299. 24 P.S. §§ 2-292, 2-293. S. 2. In preparing reorganization plans pursuant to Act 299, the county boards were not bound by any proposals contained in reorganization plans prepared pursuant to Act 561, 24 P.S. § 2-292. In dealing with school districts which had previously entered into a written agreement for the establishment of a joint school or department, however, the county boards were prohibited from proposing any administrative units which in whole or in part comprised less than all of the school districts joined by such agreement. 24 P.S. § 2-292.

 (c) Act 299 was superseded by the Act of July 8, 1968, P.L. 299, No. 150, 24 P.S. § 2400.1 et seq. (Act 150). Act 150 directed each county board of education to prepare within 90 days a plan of organization of administrative units limited to those school districts within the county which were not in an administrative unit established as a school district under Act 299. 24 P.S. § 2400.2. S. 14.

 11. Acts 299 and 150 both provided for the plan of organization of administrative units to conform to standards for approval of administrative units adopted by the State Board and directed the State Board to prepare such standards, taking into account the following factors: topography, pupil population, community characteristics, transportation of pupils, use of existing buildings, existing administrative units, potential population changes and the capability of providing a comprehensive plan of education. 24 P.S. §§ 2400.1 and 2400.2; 24 P.S. §§ 2-291 and 2-292. Both Acts also provided that no plan of organization of administrative units should include any proposed school district with a pupil population of less than 4000 unless the factors listed above were considered by the State Board (or Council of Basic Education) as requiring approval of a plan in which any district contained a pupil population of less than 4000. 24 P.S. § 2400.3, 24 P.S. § 2-293.

 12. Pursuant to the above provisions of Acts 299 and 150, the State Board adopted Standards for Approval of Administrative Units. These Standards, inter alia provided that:

 

(a) An administrative unit shall make available an educational program and educational opportunities to meet the varying needs, aptitudes, abilities, and interests of individuals residing in the administrative unit.

 

(b) Consideration should be given to whether a geographic area has developed the characteristics of a community. Community, as used here, includes one or more municipalities and the surrounding territory from where people came for business, social, recreational, fraternal or similar reasons. Neither race or religion shall be a factor in determining administrative unit boundaries and differences in the social and economic level of the population shall not be a basis to determine these boundaries.

 

A letter from the Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction advised the County Boards, including the Allegheny County Board, that the intent of the language of the last sentence of the above paragraph was to prevent de jure segregation through the fixing of school district boundaries and that the language was not to be construed to permit de facto segregation on the basis of race, religion or national origin which is by law prohibited. Exhibit 40, T. 271-276.

 

(c) An administrative unit shall utilize existing buildings to the maximum extent practical avoiding unnecessary new construction where possible.

 

(d) Pupil population changes may be considered in the planning of administrative units where the changes are supported by reliable studies of area development showing past pupil population trends and future projections based on recognized statistical methods.

 

(e) Consideration shall be given to the capability of providing a comprehensive program of education which shall mean the ability to educate and train each child within his capacity to the extent demanded by the immediate requirements of his growth and his relationship to the strengthening of this Commonwealth and nation, and shall include, but not be limited to, wealth per pupil, qualifications of professional staff, enrollment and diversification of curriculum.

 

Exhibits 12, 60.

 C. School Districts Established by the State and County Boards

 13. In the central eastern area of Allegheny County, east of the City of Pittsburgh and north of the Monongahela River, the County and State Boards established the General Braddock Area School District; the School Districts of Turtle Creek, Swissvale Area, Churchill Area and East Allegheny which border on the General Braddock Area School District; and the Edgewood School District which is situated within approximately one mile of the General Braddock Area School District. Exhibits 59, 13, 4, 10.

 14. The General Braddock Area School District came into being on July 1, 1971 and serves the area consisting of the geographic limits of the Boroughs of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin. This School District composed of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin was proposed in the organization plan adopted by the County Board pursuant to Act 150 on October 7, 1968 and was approved by the State Board on May 9, 1969. Prior to July 1, 1971, the School Districts of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin served the Boroughs of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin, respectively. S. 15, 21, 24, 26; Ex. 10, 13, 37.

 15. The Turtle Creek School District serves the area consisting of the geographic limits of the Boroughs of East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek. This School District was established pursuant to Act 150. S. 15; Ex. 9, 10, 37.

 16. The Swissvale Area School District serves the area consisting of the geographic limits of the boroughs of Braddock Hills and Swissvale. This School District was established pursuant to Act 150. S. 15; Ex. 9, 10, 37.

 17. The Churchill Area School District serves the area consisting of the geographic limits of the municipalities of Chalfont, Churchill, Forest Hills and Wilkins. This School District was established pursuant to Act 299. S. 15; Ex. 4, 10, 13, 36.

 18. The East Allegheny School District serves the area consisting of the geographic limits of the municipalities of East McKeesport, North Versailles, Wall and Wilmerding. This School District was established pursuant to Act 299. S. 15; Ex. 4, 10, 13, 36.

 19. The Edgewood School District serves the area consisting of the geographic limits of the Borough of Edgewood. This School District was established pursuant to Act 150. S. 15; Ex. 9, 10, 13, 37.

 D. Characteristics of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin.

 20. Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin are economically depressed, declining communities. T. 47, 48, 66, 120, 135-137.

 21. The housing within these three municipalities is old and substandard. Ex. 23, 49; T. 50, 134-135.

 22. The residents of these municipalities are poor and less educated. Ex. 20, 50, 51, 56.

 23. The municipal taxes of these municipalities are higher than average. Ex. 25.

 24. The recreational and shopping facilities within these three municipalities are extremely limited. T. 49-50, 65, 134, 135.

  25. The populations of these three municipalities have been rapidly declining at an accelerated pace and becoming increasingly older. From 1930 to 1970 the combined populations of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin declined from 44,067 to 23,335 and the median age of these populations increased from approximately 27 years in 1940 to approximately 35 years in 1970. Ex. 15, 16.

 26. The Boroughs of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin have no characteristics that will attract or retain persons who have the financial means and opportunity to live elsewhere. T. 47, 48, 64-66, 120, 220, 221, 225-228; Findings of Fact 20-25.

 E. Population Trends -- Race 27. The populations of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin are becoming increasingly non-white at an accelerated rate. From 1930 to 1970 the percentages of the non-white populations of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin increased as follows: Braddock -- 11.54% to 36.33%; North Braddock -- 2.91% to 11.04%; Rankin -- 19.56% to 35.48%; and combined populations -- 9.7% to 24.7%. The largest increase in the non-white percentage of the combined populations of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin has occurred in the last two decades as is shown in the table below which sets forth the increase in the percentage of non-white population for each of the past four decades: 1930- 1940- 1950- 1960- 1940 1950 1960 1970 Braddock .7% 4.0% 7.3% 12.8% North Braddock .2% 1.8% 2.4% 3.8% Rankin 2.2% 7.3% 5.0% 1.4% Combined n3 .8% 3.7% 4.1% 6.4% Ex. 15

19730515

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



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