There being no more than the normal difficulties incident to the
transition from a dual to a unitary school system, there is no
basis for staying the District Court's order to desegregate the
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, public schools, which have been
involved in litigation for seven years.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, Circuit Justice.
On August 10, 1971, the Federal District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana ordered the Jefferson Parish School Board to
implement, beginning on August 31, 1971, the plan for desegregation
of the public schools of said parish which had been submitted to
the court eight days earlier. Having been denied stays of that
order by the District Court and the United States Court of Appeals
for the Fifth Circuit, the Board seeks a stay here. Hearing was had
in the District Court on the feasibility of beginning the
desegregation process without delay. The evidence there adduced
demonstrated that the parish would undoubtedly experience those
difficulties normally incident to the transition from a dual to a
unitary school system. Recognizing the existence of these
difficulties, the District Court nonetheless correctly applied the
law as developed by this Court in concluding:
"The fact that a temporary, albeit difficult, burden may be
placed on the School Board in the initial administration of the
plan, or the fact that some schools may not begin the school year
in a routinely smooth fashion, does not justify in these
circumstances the continuation of a less than unitary school system
and the resulting denial of an equal educational
Page 404 U. S. 220
opportunity to a certain segment of the Parish school
The devastating, often irreparable, injury to those children who
experience segregation and isolation was noted 17 years ago in
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.
(1954). This Court has repeatedly made it clear
beyond any possible doubt that, absent some extraordinary
circumstances, delay in achieving desegregation will not be
tolerated. See, e.g., Alexander v. Holmes County Board of
Education, 396 U. S. 19
(1969); Carter v. West Feliciana Parish School Board,
396 U. S. 226
(1969); Keyes v. Denver School District, 396 U.
(1969) (BRENNAN, J., in chambers).
There are no unusual circumstances in this case. The schools
involved have been mired in litigation for seven years. Whatever
progress toward desegregation has been made apparently, and
unfortunately, derives only from judicial action initiated by those
persons situated as perpetual plaintiffs below. The rights of
children to equal educational opportunities are not to be denied,
even for a brief time, simply because a school board situates
itself so as to make desegregation difficult.
The stay is accordingly denied.