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HOOTS v. PENNSYLVANIA

April 28, 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, MOSEPH 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, THE SCHOOL 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; CHURCHILL AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT EDGEWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT SWISSVALE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT TURTLE CREEK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

 We begin bearing in mind a profound observation of Henry Louis Mencken that every difficult problem always has a simple solution and that solution is always wrong. There is no simple solution here and we have searched all of those offered. Any solution is involved with high emotional reactions to the extent that calm discussion is rarely possible in the presence of as many as twelve sets of counsel, mostly representing diverse and possibly irreconcilable interests.

 The history of this case has been recited too often in the opinions of this court and reviewing courts to justify any repetition here. It has not always been discussed accurately. The description of the plaintiffs as parents of children in the General Braddock Area School District, of the plight of the Hoots, Knight and Smith children was pure fancy. Mrs. Hoots has not been a resident of this District since before the very first hearings; nine of Mrs. Knight's children graduated from Braddock High School before the reorganization, and Mrs. Knight has not resided in the district since 1977. Mrs. Smith has remained a resident of General Braddock Area School District and an employee of plaintiffs' counsel, but her children are enrolled in parochial schools. Because of these facts, plaintiffs have moved for the substitution of new parties plaintiff, although the caption still bears the Hoots name for identifying purposes.

 Nor is the picture of the black children of General Braddock sitting on the steps of the courthouse waiting for justice accurate. It would be more accurate to state that they are part of a group, both black and white, that are picketing the court to stop any plan that involves the closing of Scott High School. They have so testified, they have filed petitions with the court, and have indulged in a letter writing campaign. This feeling was particularly strong when Scott High School became the State Champion in the basketball competition.

 Nevertheless, there is a clear violation of constitutional rights, and there are now proper parties plaintiff before the court; regardless of the size of the group they have a right to be remedied.

 In the meantime, two additional plans were submitted by parties, an upgrade plan by General Braddock, and a metropolitan merger plan by the Commonwealth, both of which were solely preliminary proposals without a detailed workup. The Commonwealth later withdrew its metropolitan plan from consideration. No plan that we had considered up to that time achieved a consensus of approval by the parties; the tuition plan was the least strenuously opposed because it left the individual administrative units intact, including General Braddock itself, and because it proposed distributing the General Braddock students over a very wide area and among many districts. Nevertheless, it consigned General Braddock students to a second class status, that of tolerated guests in a foreign school district, and it deprived their parents of a voice in the control of the school district that was educating their children.

 In August 1980 we were prepared to continue hearings on other plans but all of this was interrupted by the pendency of the appeal.

 Upon the return of the mandate on January 27, 1981, we immediately convened the counsel for consideration of further action. We rejected the upgrade plan which did essentially nothing to achieve desegregation and also we determined the Milliken v. Bradley issue as it applied to certain of the school districts joined as defendants for the purpose of relief. We dismissed two of the previously joined school districts because their further involvement was considered unnecessary. We determined that the only appropriate remedy in this situation must be a multi-district merger of several school districts into a single district. The plaintiffs' counsel informed us through certain motions for discovery, that they had engaged professional expert services and would submit a plan. On March 24, 1981, the plaintiffs for the first time proposed their own remedy. This called for a plan of consolidation of five school districts. We set the matter down for hearings on April 20, 1981.

 We strictly limited this hearing to the question of the geographical boundaries of the proposed district and the identity of the districts to be included. At this point seven school districts remained as defendants for the purpose of constructing a remedy. We limited the plaintiffs to one day of testimony limited solely to this issue, and gave all defendants two days for cross-examination and presentation of direct testimony. The defendants were allowed to divide their time among themselves but did not choose to do so. Only four districts desired to present any direct testimony and for the most part only these districts undertook cross-examination.

 General Braddock Area School District announced at the opening of the hearing that they joined with the plaintiffs' motion to approve the five district plan.

 We therefore proceed to our determination of the New School District.

 THE COMPOSITION OF THE NEW DISTRICT.

 The Court finds that a New School District composed of the present school districts of Churchill, Edgewood, Swissvale, General Braddock, and Turtle Creek would achieve desegregation of the General Braddock Area School District and would achieve the highest beneficial results over and above the results of any other plan submitted to this Court by any party during the whole period of this litigation. The Court bases this conclusion on the following evidence developed in the record:

 (1) It would produce a district with a school population 83% white and 17% minority (mostly black), within a general range of recognized desegregation guidelines and comparable to the population distribution over a wide area of Allegheny County.

 (2) The pattern of desegregation established is likely to remain stable.

 (3) All of the districts included are contiguous to each other, three of the districts border General Braddock, and the remaining district, Edgewood, borders one and almost borders another.

 (4) The area of the New District is moderate in size (13.5 sq. miles) as compared to the average size of Allegheny County Districts (15 sq. miles).

 (5) The district is roughly circular in configuration, lending itself to increased administrative and ...


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