The opinion of the court was delivered by: ANITA B. BRODY
I am called upon to decide: 1) whether the plaintiff, a private school for boys adjudicated delinquent by the courts, has offered sufficient evidence of racial animus to survive summary judgment on its claims under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) where plaintiff has shown unequal treatment but has offered no evidence of racial motivation apart from the fact that the majority of the plaintiff's students are black or latino, and 2) whether the plaintiff has offered sufficient evidence of arbitrary and capricious government action to survive summary judgment on its substantive due process claim. I find that the plaintiff has not offered sufficient evidence of racial animus to survive summary judgment on its claims under the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), but that it has offered sufficient evidence of arbitrary and capricious government action to sustain its substantive due process claim.
On June 11, 1992, plaintiff, the Board of Managers of the Glen Mills School ("Glen Mills"), a private school for boys who have committed delinquent acts, filed a six count complaint against the West Chester Area School District, individual school board members,
Thornbury Township, and several past and present Township supervisors.
After a partial settlement, the remaining counts allege denial of equal protection, violation of substantive due process rights, violation of contract rights protected by 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and a conspiracy to deprive plaintiffs of their constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).
The School District and Township defendants each moved for summary judgment on all outstanding counts of the complaint. Those motions are now before me.
Plaintiff is the Board of Managers or governing body of the Glen Mills Schools ("Glen Mills"), a school for boys who have committed delinquent acts. Dep. of Mitzi Hepps at 11. Glen Mills is located in Thornbury Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, within the West Chester Area School District.
This lawsuit involves a building and tract of land ("the Thornbury School") adjacent to the Glen Mills School and currently owned by the West Chester Area School District. Glen Mills originally sold the land to the School District in 1904, but retained a reversionary interest should the School District cease to use it as a school. Plaintiff's Ex. C (Deed dated June 24, 1904). In 1962 Glen Mills gave up that reversionary interest in connection with a subsequent sale of land. Plaintiff's Ex. D (1962 Deed). The School District subsequently granted Glen Mills a right of first refusal should the School District ever decide to sell the property. Plaintiff's Ex. E (letter dated April 17, 1963 from the School District to Glen Mills, confirming the right of first refusal).
The School District constructed a building on the property and used it as a public elementary school until the late nineteen seventies. Dep. of Donald Howland at 12-13. During that time, the school also served as a community center for the citizens of Thornbury Township. Dep. of George Morley at 12-14. Each of the Township supervisors who participated in the acts which are the subject of this lawsuit had children who had attended the Thornbury School and had fond memories of the school, and some had expressed an interest in bringing the school "back into the Township". Morley Dep. at 21; Dep. of Theodore Russell at 41.
Beginning in 1981, the School District leased the Thornbury School building to Glen Mills for additional classroom space for the sum of $ 1.00 per year. Plaintiff's Ex. I (Lease). The original lease, which was for a term of five years, was renewed for another five-year term, but the School District retained the right to terminate the lease, with six months notice to Glen Mills, at the end of any year. Plaintiff's Ex. K (Addendum to Lease). Glen Mills continued to occupy the school until July, 1991. Dep. of Cosimo Ferrianola at 145. Glen Mills made several offers to purchase the building during this time, but the School District showed no interest. Plaintiff's Ex. Q (December 1987 offer to purchase the property for $ 750,000 payable over 10 years); Plaintiff's Ex. W (April 1988 offer to purchase the property for $ 750,000, or $ 1 million over the next five years or to make an exchange for a 16 acre piece of property owned by Glen Mills).
In early 1988 there was an incident which shocked the residents of Thornbury Township and hurt Glen Mills' relationship with the surrounding community. A Glen Mills student left the school without permission and was discovered undressing in a young girl's bedroom nearby. Russell Dep. at 59. A number of residents approached the Township supervisors "in an uproar" and demanded that they do something to insure the residents' safety. Russell Dep. at 59-60. This led to meetings between the supervisors and Glen Mills and the establishment of a liaison between the Township and the school.
Russell Dep. at 59.
In October 1987, the Township wrote to the School District, expressing an interest in purchasing the property and requesting a meeting to discuss that possibility. Howland Dep. Ex. 10. The Township sent another letter in March 1988, confirming its interest in the property. Plaintiff's Ex. S. The exact course of the negotiations between the School District and the Township is unknown; Township officials characterize their interest in the building as short-lived, and state that the Township never formally decided to purchase the building. Dep. of Mary Beth Graap at 6; Russell Dep. at 74. Defendant Howland, the Director of Business Affairs for the School District, has testified that he has no recollection of the Township expressing any interest in purchasing the building until after the deal with Glen Mills fell through in 1991. Howland Dep. at 101-03. Nonetheless, in the spring of 1989 the lawyers for the parties exchanged a "final" agreement which involved the exchange of the Glen Mills School for a piece of property owned by the Township. Plaintiff's Ex. U (Letter dated May 25, 1989 from lawyer for Township to lawyer for School District, describing attached agreement as "final" and communicating Township's intention to sign the agreement by June 5, 1989). Glen Mills was not offered a right of first refusal, nor told of the negotiations. Hepps Dep. at 22-23.
The School District and the Township apparently anticipated an effort by Glen Mills to assert a right of first refusal. The agreement includes a nine-page addendum which details the steps each party would take in the event that Glen Mills asserted such a right, including denying the existence of the right and sharing the costs of defending a law suit by Glen Mills. Plaintiff's Ex. U at P 3. According to the addendum to the agreement, if necessary the Township would acquire the property by eminent domain and the School District would reimburse the Township for any costs it incurred over the value of the property. Plaintiff's Ex. U at P 4.
In May of 1989 when Glen Mills learned that the Township planned to buy the property, it immediately wrote to the School District to assert its right of first refusal. Plaintiff's Ex. Z. The sale to the Township was not consummated, nor were there negotiations with Glen Mills at this time.
In early 1991, Glen Mills and the School District commenced negotiations for the sale of the Thornbury School to Glen Mills. WCASD Ex. K (Series of letters between School District and Glen Mills, discussing terms of sale). The parties quickly agreed on a price of $ 550,000. WCASD Ex. K. That agreement subsequently broke down over the parties' inability to agree on an environmental inspection clause. The original agreement proposed by the School District made no provision for environmental inspection by Glen Mills. Plaintiff's Ex. E-1 PP 4-5 (Draft Agreement of Sale of Thornbury School property from School District to Glen Mills). Glen Mills asked for an addendum requiring the School District to prepare an environmental audit, allowing Glen Mills to perform environmental testing at the School District's expense, and providing Glen Mills with the right to terminate the agreement if it was unsatisfied with the results. Plaintiff's Ex. F-1 P 2(d)-(e) (Facsimile letter from lawyer for Glen Mills to lawyer for School District). The School District countered with a proposal that would allow Glen Mills to conduct a visual inspection of the property at its own expense, reasoning that Glen Mills did not require any more in depth inspection since it had occupied the property for ten years. Plaintiff's Ex. G-1 (Facsimile response by lawyer for School District).
Glen Mills vacated the Thornbury School at the end of the last lease term in 1991 and thereafter had to find substitute classroom space where it could -- in basements, the school's library, the vocational training facility, and other rooms it claims were unsuitable for that use. Hepps Dep. at 49. Glen Mills then made plans to build new classroom space on its own land, but encountered delays and additional expense in the form of allegedly excessive, unwarranted and unprecedented demands for plans, reports, and documentation by the Township. In particular, the Township refused to issue a building permit because Glen Mills had not submitted a master plan of the campus, including all proposed future construction as well as a diagram of the existing sewer and water lines, electrical service, roads, and storm-water run-off systems for the entire 800-acre campus. Russell Dep. at 99-103; Morley Dep. at 74; Dep. of Daniel Lutz at 43-45. Township officials characterized this requirement as standard, but also testified that the only other projects for which such a plan had been required were developments involving multiple buildings, such as large housing developments. Morley Dep. at 77. The Township had not required a master plan from Glen Mills before approving the plans for a 22-lot staff housing development and a dormitory which were submitted less than a year before the plan for the academic building. Lutz Dep. at 37.
Glen Mills' interpretation of these events is that the School District refused to bargain with it in good faith for the sale of the school because the School District did not want Glen Mills' predominantly black and latino student population to grow. Glen Mills alleges that the same motivation prompted the Township to conspire with the School District to arrange a secret sale of the Thornbury School to the Township, to prevent the building from falling into Glen Mills' hands, and to further stymie Glen Mills' growth by ...