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Topeka Brief for the Board of Education Kansas on Questions Propounded by the Court

Ii. Question 4(a) Should Be Answered In The Negative: And Question 4(b) In The Affirmative

Both Questions 4(a) and 4(b) contemplate the possibility that this Court might issue a broad, general order requiring abolition of segregation in the elementary schools of Topeka, rather than a limited order relating to the rights of the few particular negro children who are parties to this suit.

Such a general order would necessitate almost a complete readjustment of the elementary school system as now maintained in Topeka, so far as fixing attendance areas and boundaries for all the elementary school buildings in Topeka; it would require the transfer of many white and negro children from the schools they now attend to other buildings, as well as the transfer and assignment of many teachers to serve the resulting new classes in the various buildings.

Many of the grade schools now used for white children in the city are already full, and some are badly overcrowded. A school building program has been carried on and is being carried on now. The Southwest School was completed and opened in 1952; two other new schools are under construction now, and the Board is deciding on new sites for still two more schools to be constructed as quickly as possible. All five of these new buildings are, or will be, in areas where there have been new housing projects, and where the school population is now and probably will remain predominantly white children. These schools will probably not serve many negro children even when segregation is finally abolished.

The majority of the negro school population resides in a few scattered areas throughout the older parts of the city, and is not evenly distributed throughout the entire city. Many negro children live nearest to white schools which are already overcrowded. To transfer and admit these negro children to the schools nearest their residences will require either that many white children now attending such schools will have to be transferred to other schools, or that annexes will have to be provided. In short we have little doubt that the area boundaries of the existing white and negro schools will have to be redefined. This will necessarily require reassigning students, both white and negro, to schools which they do not now attend, and this in turn will require changing the classes to fit the new children in, and may involve transferring teachers from building to building as well.

It is the plan of the Board of Education of Topeka to make the transition from segregated to integrated elementary schools gradually and in an orderly manner on a school by school basis, but as rapidly as is practically possible. Such changes will be made at convenient times between semesters, and in such a manner that the administrative decisions and changes can be conveniently and efficiently handled without interrupting the continuity of the regular school program. The Board has discussed its policy and plans in open, public meetings attended by members of both white and negro races. It has invited and secured cooperation and suggestions, and the public generally in the community is assisting the Board in achieving its objective of terminating segregation "as rapidly as is practicable."

If this Court should enter an order to abolish segregation in the public schools of Topeka "forthwith," as suggested in Question 4(a), the Topeka Board would, of course, do its best to comply with the order. We believe, however, that it would probably require that the regular classes be suspended, while the many administrative changes and adjustments are being made, and while the necessary transfers of and reassignment of students and teachers are being made. Important decisions would have to be hurriedly made, without time for careful investigation of the facts nor for careful thought and reflection. Most decisions would have to be made on a temporary or an emergency basis. We believe the attendant confusion and interruption of the regular school program would be against the public interest, and would be damaging to the children, both negro and white alike.

We respectfully urge that in making and issuing its decree this Court has equitable power and discretion to shape the decree and to control its execution in such a manner as to protect the public interest:

United States v. Morgan, 307 U.S. 183, 81 L. Ed. 1211, 59 S. Ct. 795:

"It is familiar doctrine that the extent to which a court of equity may grant or withhold its aid, and the manner of moulding its remedies, may be affected by the public interest involved." (p. 1219, L. Ed.)

Virginia Ry. Co. v. System Federation No. 40, 300 U.S. 515, 81 L. Ed. 789, 52 S. Ct. 512:

"6. The extent to which equity will go to give relief where there is no adequate remedy at law is not a matter of fixed rule, but rests rather in the sound discretion of the court.

"7. Courts of equity may, and frequently do, go much further to give and withhold relief in furtherance of the public interest than they are accustomed to go when only private interests are involved." (Syll. 6. and 7.)

Securities Exch. Comm. v. U. S. R. and Imp. Co., 310 U.S. 434, 84 L. Ed. 1293, 60 S. Ct. 1044:

"7. A court of equity has discretion, in the exercise of jurisdiction committed to it, to grant or deny relief upon performance of conditions which will safeguard the public interest." (Syll. 7.)

Because the Board of Education believes that a "forthwith" order to abolish segregation in the Topeka school system would seriously damage and interrupt the operation and administration of the schools and would be plainly against public interest, and because it believes that an order to abolish segregation, in the public interest, should permit "an effective gradual adjustment"; we respectfully submit that Question 4(a) propounded by the Court should be answered in the negative, and that Question 4(b) should be answered in the affirmative.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Topeka Brief for the Board of Education Kansas on Questions Propounded by the Court - Appeal From The United States District Court For The District Of Kansasbrief For The Board Of Education, Topeka, Kansas, On Questions Propounded By The Court