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HOOTS v. PENNSYLVANIA

March 5, 1981

Dorothy HOOTS, individually and as mother of her children Janelle Hoots and Jamie Hoots, Mrs. Addrallace Knight, individually and as mother and natural guardian of her children Ronald Knight, Loretta Knight, Terrance Knight, Marc Knight and Byron Knight; Barbara Smith, individually and as mother and natural guardian of her children Tawanda Smith, Tevela Smith, Joseph Smith, Wesley Smith and Eric Smith; on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA: Edward X. Hallenberg, President of the Allegheny County Board of School Directors; the Allegheny County Board of School Directors; W. Deming Lewis, Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education; Michael Sullivan, President of the School District of the Borough of Braddock; theSchool District of the Borough of Braddock; Andrew Lisyak, President of the School Board of the School District of the Borough of Rankin; the School District of the Borough of Rankin, Leo Campbell, President of the School Board of the School District of the Borough of North Braddock; and the School District of the Borough of North Braddock; the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Board of School Directors and Edward X. Hallenberg, as President of the Allegheny Intermediate Board of School Directors, Turtle Creek Area School District, Edgewood School District, West Mifflin School District, Steel Valley School District, East Allegheny School District, Swissvale Area School District, Churchill Area School District, and Gateway School District



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

In 1973, this court found the General Braddock Area School District was a racially segregated district, created by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through its state and county Boards. Since that time, the court has heard testimony on several plans designed to desegregate the school system. At this stage, however, no further decisions on an appropriate plan can be made until it is determined which, if any, of the surrounding school districts can be included in any remedy within the guidelines of Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717, 94 S. Ct. 3112, 41 L. Ed. 2d 1069 (1974). (Milliken I ).

This was a matter set down for briefing and argument in August 1980 at the time of extensive hearings on this case. Our consideration and determination of this matter was interrupted and delayed by the abrupt change of position of plaintiffs' counsel, the interlocutory appeal which followed, and the five months' wait until the decision of the Court of Appeals, 3rd Cir., 639 F.2d 972, on this matter. Now that it is back with this court time was required to refresh recollection and review files before determining what might have been determined in September 1980. The court has relied on the arguments made at that time and the extensive briefs filed at various points to arrive at the following conclusions.

 Milliken held that a multi-district remedy was impermissible where the court has found a condition of segregation in only one district, unless it can be shown that the violation was caused by the acts of adjacent school districts.

 
The controlling principle consistently expounded in our holdings is that the scope of the remedy is determined by the nature and extent of the constitutional violation. Swann, (v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Ed.) 402 U.S., (1) at 16 91 S. Ct. 1267, at 1276, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554). Before the boundaries of separate and autonomous school districts may be set aside by consolidating the separate units for remedial purposes or by imposing a cross-district remedy, it must first be shown that there has been a constitutional violation within one district that produces a significant segregative effect in another district. Specifically, it must be shown that racially discriminatory acts of the state or local school districts, or of a single school district have been a substantial cause of interdistrict segregation. Thus an interdistrict remedy might be in order where the racially discriminatory acts of one or more school districts caused racial segregation in an adjacent district, or where district lines have been deliberately drawn on the basis of race. In such circumstances an interdistrict remedy would be appropriate to eliminate the interdistrict segregation directly caused by the constitutional violation. Conversely, without an interdistrict violation and interdistrict effect, there is no constitutional wrong calling for an interdistrict remedy.
 
Milliken v. Bradley, supra at p. 744-45, 94 S. Ct. at 3126-27.

 Before any proposed remedy can be fully considered we must review the facts of this case to determine whether an interdistrict remedy is appropriate here or whether any remedy imposed must be limited in its application to less than all of the districts joined herein. It begins to appear that there is no possible remedy that would effectively desegregate General Braddock that does not include many neighboring school districts. Because an interdistrict remedy may be the only remedy available to the court, we must review the facts of this case to determine whether such a remedy is appropriate here.

 The General Braddock Area School District was created as a result of a reorganization of school districts initiated by the Commonwealth and accomplished by three specific pieces of legislation.

 Prior to 1961, the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949, 24 P.S. § 2-251 allowed school districts to merge voluntarily. Thereafter there was a series of statutes compelling mergers. The Commonwealth first passed the Act of September 12, 1961, P.L. 1283, No. 561, 24 P.S. § 2-281 et seq. (Act 561) to effectuate the state's goal of achieving comprehensive programs of education through larger school districts. Although the Act recognized voluntary merger of districts this was the first Act to set up a compulsory system of reorganization and merger and provided that each county board of school directors should prepare a plan of organization of administrative units for the county for review by the State Council of Education by Jan. 1, 1963. 24 P.S. §§ 2-282, 2-283. State Board of Education v. Franklin Township School District, 209 Pa.Super. 410, 228 A.2d 221, 223 (1967). Once submitted by the county board, the State Board would review the plan for approval taking into consideration certain environmental criteria, including topography, pupil population, socio-economic characteristics, facility of transportation of pupils, utilization of existing school buildings, existing administrative units, and potential population changes. 24 P.S. § 2-281. After review, the State Board could reject or rewrite those plans that it did not consider "wise in the best interests of the educational system of the Commonwealth". It was further provided specifically that the State Board could not approve any plan for an administrative unit which contained a student population of less than 4,000 pupils unless the above criteria were considered and the Board found that the situation necessitated the lower student population. In no event, however, was the State Board to approve any administrative unit with less than 2,500 pupils. 24 P.S. § 2-283. Once approved, the administrative units were to become operative in 1965.

 At the time Act 561 was passed, the following school districts operated in central eastern Allegheny County: Wilmerding, North Versailles, Gateway, Turtle Creek, East Pittsburgh, Braddock, North Braddock, Rankin, Braddock Hills, Swissvale, Edgewood, Wilkens, and Forest Hills. *fn1" On May 15, 1962, before the County Board had established a plan for reorganization, Wilkens and Forest Hills areas voted to voluntarily merge into a single district known as Churchill. Churchill was later approved by the State Board on June 25, 1962. Allegheny County did submit a reorganization plan under Act 561 which was approved by the State Board, but before the effective date of 1965.

 Act 299 (Act of August 8, 1963, P.L. 564, No. 299, 24 P.S. § 2-290 et seq.) was passed to replace Act 561. Act 299 contained the same basic provisions as Act 561, but included a three-tiered appeals process for "aggrieved" school districts. The criteria for reorganization and the minimum 4,000 pupil population provision were both carried over. Act 299, however, expressly reserved to the State and County Boards the right to reconsider its approval of previously joined districts (ones formed by voluntary merger prior to Act 299) and to be remerged into even different and larger districts. 24 P.S. § 2-292. Therefore, any administrative units that had been approved under Act 561 would still come under the authority of Act 299 and the County was effectively operating from a clean slate.

 Although aware of strenuous objections to the proposed plan submitted by the County Board, at its meeting on September 6, 1964, the State Board approved the following administrative units: Unit 14 (Gateway); Unit 15 (Wilkens and Forest Hills combining to form Churchill); Unit 18 (Wilmerding and North Versailles combining to form East Allegheny) and Unit 38 (Braddock Hills, Edgewood, and Swissvale). As a result, Units 14, 15 and 18 all became operative on July 1, 1966. Unit 38 did not because Edgewood took an appeal.

 Along with Unit 38, this left unapproved the racially unbalanced and controversial proposed Unit 16, which consisted of Braddock, North Braddock, Rankin, Turtle Creek, and East Pittsburgh. Since the surrounding municipalities with approved school districts were now operative, they were no longer available under any reorganization plans. This left the State few options with which to deal with Unit 16. The state chose to create new Unit 16, consisting of Braddock, North Braddock and Rankin (with a close to 40% black student population as of 1967), and new Unit 42, consisting of Turtle Creek and East Pittsburgh (with a 1.3% black student population as of 1967).

 In 1968, the legislature passed Act 150 (Act of July 8, 1968, P.L. 299. No. 150, 24 P.S. § 2400.1 et seq.) which superseded Act 299. This Act was simply a continuation of Act 299 and contained the same basic provisions as Act 299, except for modified appeals procedure. Act 150 further provided that all districts that had been merged under Act 299 would not be forced to merge to form larger districts. Therefore, with nothing new to work with, the State approved Unit 16, now called General Braddock Area School District, and Unit 42, now known as Turtle Creek, as they had been proposed under Act 299. The only change of the County Board's plan that occurred under Act 150 was that the proposed Unit 38 (Edgewood, Braddock Hills and Swissvale) was split up into two smaller districts: Edgewood, with a student ...


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