The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER
This is an action to redress the alleged deprivation of civil and constitutional rights of plaintiffs by compelling the reopening of an elementary school closed by defendants in their administration of the Greater Johnstown, Pennsylvania, School District.
The court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331(a), 1343(3), (4) and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1988.
The outspread wings themselves have holes which represent independent political enclaves completely enclosed by the City of Johnstown, whose territory is not included in the Greater Johnstown School District.
This configuration is dictated partly by the geographical features of the terrain, in incursions of impassable hills that encroach to the city center and divide areas that would appear adjacent on a flat map projection. 43.5% of the land in the area is not suitable for development because of hills, river valley and areas for flood control, and limited possibilities for transportation routes. Also, to a considerable extent this configuration is created by the political boundaries of adjacent independent municipal corporations, which boundaries have been preserved in the alignment of school districts, creating deep salients and wholly surrounded enclaves in the Greater Johnstown School District. The economic and administrative reasons for the exclusion of these enclaves and salients are not apparent on this record although the Greater Johnstown School District is the result of a consolidation of districts in 1961.
The Prospect area is a central city area of concentrated black population. There were formerly two elementary schools in the Prospect area but in January 1971 Hudson elementary school was closed and its pupils who formerly walked to school are now bussed to a new large elementary school complex in the east end of Johnstown. At that time Hudson school had 80 white and 65 black students. There was no proposal of transferring the Hudson school students to nearby Washington school. Washington school was the only elementary school remaining in the Prospect area and it has a student population that is over 70% black. The ratio of black students in the entire school district is 8%.
The maximum student capacity of Washington school is 362 students and at the time of its closing it was under used. Its total student population has been declining.
For many years the Greater Johnstown School District had been attempting to follow a plan of long-range development by phasing out its older elementary school buildings and consolidating students in newer and larger buildings. A large step in that program was accomplished in February 1971 by the building of a new Meadowvale School in the east end of Johnstown and transferring more pupils into it while closing older, smaller schools in the east end. The closing of Hudson elementary school in the Prospect area was part of this program.
Because greater distances are involved this program requires increased transportation of pupils to Meadowvale School by bus.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is a state agency empowered to enforce measures to prevent racial discrimination. Pennsylvania Human Relations Comm. v. Chester School District, 427 Pa. 157, 233 A. 2d 290 .
In February 1968 the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission issued desegregation instructions to 17 school districts in the state which included at least one school in which 80% or more of the pupils were non-white. On May 15, 1968 the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission issued directions to eight school districts, including Greater Johnstown, in which at least one school contained 50% or more non-white pupils. On July 28, 1970 the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission sent a letter to the Greater Johnstown School District directing it to submit to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission by December 1, 1970 a plan for correcting the racial imbalance existing in the district's schools. The Board, on January 11, 1971, approved a plan which provided for the closing of Hudson School on February 1, 1971 (Plan I), and Washington School on September 1, 1971 (Plan II) [Exhibit 27]. After further negotiations with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission a plan covering the closing of Washington School and Tanneryville School on September 1, 1971 was approved by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on June 30, 1971, and the Board proceeded to close down the Washington School facility during the summer of 1971. Late in the summer of 1971 the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission requested a one year stay of carrying this plan into effect but, because of the prior physical closing of the school building, the Board considered it too late to stay the procedures already taken.
In furtherance of its consolidation program and in order to solve the problem of racial imbalance in the Washington School the Greater Johnstown School Board decided to close Washington School. Pupils from the Prospect area who attended Washington School were to be transported to various elementary schools in the west end of Johnstown. Another elementary school in the extreme west end of Johnstown with a 100% white pupil population was closed at the same time.
It is the plan of the Greater Johnstown School District to construct a large elementary school complex in the west end of Johnstown similar to the Meadowvale complex in the east end. This has not yet been done and the Prospect area elementary pupils are allocated among several existing elementary schools in the west end.
With Washington School closed at the beginning of the fall 1971 term, and its pupils being bussed to various west end schools, the end result is a more even racial balance through all of the elementary schools but this is achieved by having 80% of the black elementary school population being bussed as opposed to 40% of the white elementary school population.
Plaintiffs argue that the burden of the schools' desegregation program is placed on the black students and that the decision to close Washington School was not made for educationally valid reasons but rather to relieve the white racial majority of the ...