Columbus Bd. of Educ. v. Penick
Annotate this Case
443 U.S. 449 (1979)
U.S. Supreme Court
Columbus Bd. of Educ. v. Penick, 443 U.S. 449 (1979)
Columbus Bd. of Educ. v. Penick
Argued April 24, 1979
Decided July 2, 1979
443 U.S. 449
This class action was brought in 1973 by students in the Columbus, Ohio, school system, charging that the Columbus Board of Education (Board) and its officials had pursued and were pursuing a course of conduct having the purpose and effect of causing and perpetuating racial segregation in the public schools, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. The case was ultimately tried in April-June, 1976, final arguments were heard in September, 1976, and in March, 1977, the District Court filed an opinion and order containing its findings of fact and conclusions of law. It found (1) that in 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (Brown I), was decided, the Board was not operating a racially neutral unitary school system, but was conducting "an enclave of separate, black schools on the near east side of Columbus," and that this was "the direct result of cognitive acts or omissions of those school board members and administrators who had originally intentionally caused and later perpetuated the racial isolation"; (2) that, since the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U. S. 294 (Brown II), the Board had been under a continuous constitutional obligation to disestablish its dual system and that it has failed to discharge this duty; and (3) that, in the intervening years since 1954, there had been a series of Board actions and practices that could not "reasonably be explained without reference to racial concerns" and that "intentionally aggravated, rather than alleviated," racial separation in the schools. Ultimately concluding that, at the time of trial, the racial segregation in the Columbus school system "directly resulted from [the Board's] intentional segregative acts and omissions," in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the court, accordingly, enjoined the defendants from continuing to discriminate on the basis of race in operating the public schools and ordered the submission of a systemwide desegregation plan. Subsequently, following the decision in Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman, 433 U. S. 406 (Dayton I), the District Court rejected the Board's argument that that decision required or permitted modification of the court's finding or judgment. Based on its examination of the record, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments against the defendants.
1. On the record, there is no apparent reason to disturb the findings and conclusions of the District Court, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, that the Board's conduct at the time of trial and before not only was animated by an unconstitutional, segregative purpose, but also had current segregative impact that was sufficiently systemwide to warrant the remedy ordered by the District Court. Pp. 443 U. S. 454-463.
(a) Proof of purposeful and effective maintenance of a body of separate black schools in a substantial part of the system is itself prima facie proof of a dual system, and supports a finding to this effect absent sufficient contrary proof by the Board, which was not forthcoming in this case. Pp. 443 U. S. 455-458.
(b) The Board's continuing affirmative duty to disestablish the dual school system, mandated by Brown II, is beyond question, and there is nothing in the record to show that, at the time of trial, the dual school system in Columbus and its effects had been disestablished. Pp. 443 U. S. 458-461.
2. There is no indication that the judgments below rested on any misapprehension of the controlling law. Pp. 443 U. S. 463-468.
(a) Where it appears that the District Court, while recognizing that disparate impact and foreseeable consequences, without more, do not establish a constitutional violation, correctly noted that actions having foreseeable and anticipated disparate impact are relevant evidence to prove the ultimate fact of a forbidden purpose, the court stayed well within the requirements of Washington v. Davis, 426 U. S. 229, and Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U. S. 252, that a plaintiff seeking to make out an equal protection violation on the basis of racial discrimination must show purpose. Pp. 443 U. S. 464-465.
(b) Where the District Court repeatedly emphasized that it had found purposefully segregative practices with current, systemwide impact, there was no failure to observe the requirements of Dayton I, that the remedy imposed by a court of equity should be commensurate with the violation ascertained. Pp. 443 U. S. 465-467.
(c) Nor was there any misuse of Keyes v. School Dist. No. 1, Denver, Colo., 413 U. S. 189, where it was held that purposeful discrimination in a substantial part of a school system furnishes a sufficient basis for an inferential finding of a systemwide discriminatory intent unless otherwise rebutted, and that, given the purpose to operate a dual school system, one could infer a connection between such purpose and racial separation in other parts of the school system. Pp. 443 U. S. 467-468.
583 F.2d 787, affirmed.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 443 U. S. 468. STEWART, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post p. 443 U. S. 469. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 443 U. S. 479. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 443 U. S. 489.
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