Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Rebert and Alexis Rankin, minors, by Amanda Rankin, their mother, et al. v. The School District of Pittsburgh et al., No. G.D. 75-19178.
Persifor S. Oliver, Jr., Assistant Solicitor, with him Robert J. Stefanko, Solicitor, for School District of Pittsburgh.
Conrad A. Johnson, for Robert and Alexis Rankin, minors, by Amanda Rankin, their mother et al.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, DiSalle and Craig. Judges Blatt and MacPhail did not participate. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr. Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Judge Craig.
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The appellants (hereinafter collectively referred to as the School District) seek review of two orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in an equity action brought by appellees, parents of students assigned to the newly established Baxter Middle
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Grade Center (Baxter).*fn1 We affirm the decree of the chancellor, with the modification set forth below.
Since the factual background and prior history of this case have been fully set forth in our opinion in Rankin v. School District of Pittsburgh, 33 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 129, 381 A.2d 195 (1977), we need not repeat it in detail here. Briefly, the appeal stems from a decision by the School District in 1975 to convert Baxter Elementary School into a middle grade center as part of a district-wide change in the grade pattern in the district. Appellees objected to the opening of Baxter as a middle grade center on the ground that the District's assignment of students who had previously attended predominantly black elementary schools would create a new segregated school in the District. The chancellor found establishing Baxter as a middle grade center with an enrollment of 99 per cent black students constituted a violation of an order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (Commission)*fn2 and the guarantees of the
[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 225]
Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In Rankin, supra, this Court reviewed the decree of the chancellor and concluded, inter alia, that the trial court acted within the scope of its equity powers in ordering Baxter closed as a middle grade center, but that the court exceeded its equity power in that portion of its decree which ordered the School District to build a new middle grade center. On remand the chancellor opened the record to receive stipulations regarding school records of enrollments, racial balance and school capacity. After the School District declined to submit a planned reassignment of students presently attending Baxter Middle Grade Center, the chancellor on March 16, 1978 issued an order directing Baxter be closed as a middle grade center and ordering the students reassigned to five specific elementary schools. Upon a reconsideration petition filed by appellees, the chancellor filed a new decree on May 19, 1978 which again ordered Baxter closed but which ordered the School District to devise a reassignment plan to comply with the guidelines and order of the Commission. On June 29, 1978 the School District submitted a reassignment plan to the chancellor which provided for the voluntary enrollment of Baxter students at designated elementary schools. Objections to the plan were raised by appellees, the Commission and a group of parents of students assigned to nearby Reizenstein Middle School (both granted amicus status by the chancellor). On August 3, 1978 the chancellor filed a third decree, amended August 4, 1978, approving the school district proposal as an interim plan for the coming school year, and ordering the School District to devise a final plan by November 1, 1978. The chancellor further ordered the School District to "cooperate" with committees of parents from both schools and the Commission in devising the plan. The School District has appealed the May 19,
[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 2261978]
decree at 1318 C.D. 1978 and the August 3, 1978 decree, as amended, by the August 4, 1978 ...