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Monroe v. Board of Comm'rs of City of Jackson, 391 U.S. 450 (1968)

Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson

No. 740

Argued April 3, 1968

Decided May 27, 1968

391 U.S. 450


About one-third of the City of Jackson's population of 40,000 are Negroes, the great majority of whom live in the city's central area. The city school system has eight elementary, three junior high, and two senior high schools for the 7,650 students, of whom about 40% are Negroes. Tennessee law in 1954 required racial segregation in schools; five elementary and two junior high schools and one senior high school were operated as "white" schools, and the remainder as "Negro" schools. After Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954), declared such dual systems unconstitutional, Tennessee enacted a pupil placement law, which gave local school boards exclusive authority to approve assignments. No white students enrolled in any "Negro" school, and only seven applications were granted in two years permitting Negro pupils to enroll in "white" schools. In March, 1962, the Court of Appeals held that law inadequate "as a plan to convert a biracial system into a nonracial one." This action was brought in January, 1963, seeking a declaratory judgment that respondents were operating a racially segregated system, injunctive relief against maintenance of that system, an order directing admission to named "white" schools of Negro plaintiffs, and an order requiring the School Board to formulate and file a desegregation plan. The District Court ordered the students enrolled and the filing of a plan. A plan was filed, and with court-directed modifications, was approved in August, 1963, to be effective at once in the elementary schools and to be extended over a four-year period to junior and senior high schools. The modified plan provides for automatic assignment of pupils within attendance zones drawn along geographic or "natural" boundaries, and "according to the capacity and facilities" of the schools. However, the plan also has a "free-transfer" provision by which a student may freely transfer to a school of his choice if space is available, zone residents having priority in case of overcrowding. No bus service is provided. After one year the Negro elementary schools remained

Page 391 U. S. 451

all Negro, and 118 Negro pupils were scattered among four formerly all-white schools. Petitioners moved for further relief and the District Court held the plan had been administered discriminatorily. In the same proceeding the Board filed its proposed zones for the three junior high schools, to which petitioners objected on the grounds that the zones were racially gerrymandered and that the plan was inadequate to reorganize the system on a nonracial basis. Petitioners urged that the Board be required to use a "feeder system," whereby each junior high would draw its students from specific elementary schools. The District Court held that petitioners had not sustained the allegations that the zones were gerrymandered and concluded that "there is no constitutional requirement" that the "feeder system" be adopted. The Court of Appeals affirmed, except on the issue of faculty segregation. Three years later, the Negro junior high, which had over 80% of the Negro junior high students, had no white students, one "white" junior high had seven Negroes out of 819 students, and the other had 349 white and 135 Negro pupils.


1. The "free-transfer" plan clearly does not meet respondent Board's

"affirmative duty to take whatever steps might be necessary to convert to a unitary system in which racial discrimination would be eliminated root and branch,"

Green v. County School Board, ante at 391 U. S. 437-438, "[r]ather than further the dismantling of the dual system, the ["free-transfer"] plan has operated simply to burden children and their parents with a responsibility . . . placed squarely on the School Board." Id. at 391 U. S. 441-442. P. 391 U. S. 458.

2. Since it has not been shown that the "free-transfer" plan will further, rather than delay conversion to a unitary nonracial system, it is unacceptable, and the Board must formulate a new plan which promises realistically to convert promptly to a unitary, nondiscriminatory school system. Pp. 391 U. S. 459-460.

380 F.2d 955, vacated in part and remanded.

Page 391 U. S. 452

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