Board of Education of the City of School District of New York

PETITIONER: Board Of Education, New York City
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DOCKET NO.: 78-873
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 444 US 130 (1979)
ARGUED: Oct 09, 1979 / Oct 10, 1979
DECIDED: Nov 28, 1979

Joseph F. Bruno - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Board of Education of the City of School District of New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 10, 1979 in Board of Education of the City of School District of New York
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 1979 in Board of Education of the City of School District of New York

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 28, 1979 in Board of Education of the City of School District of New York

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Board of Education against Harris -- Secretary Harris will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Well, this case comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

It presents a narrow but we think important issue of statutory interpretation.

It concerns a school district's eligibility for federal financial assistance under the 1972 Emergency School Aid Act.

And because the federal funds available under that Act are limited, educational agencies compete for the funds.

The Act has its -- its purpose the provision of federal financial assistance to meet special needs incident to the elimination of minority group segregation in elementary and secondary schools to encourage the voluntary elimination of minority group by isolation and to aid children in overcoming the educational disadvantages of minority group isolation.

A section of the Act pronounces as federal policy that guidelines and criteria established under the Act should be applied uniformly to all regions of the United States.

Another section, the one that is critical here declares an agency ineligible for financial assistance if after the date of the Act, it had any practice which results in the disproportionate demotion or dismissal of personnel from minority groups or otherwise engages in discrimination in the hiring, promotion or assignment of employees.

The New York City Board, the petitioner here, applied for assistance under the Act but it was denied because a compliance investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 showed a pattern of racially disproportionate assignments of minority teachers in the system.

The Board did not contest the statistical disparities but it claimed that the disproportionate assignments resulted from provisions of state law from collective bargaining agreements from licensing requirements from a bilingual instruction consent decree and from demographic changes in student population.

The District Court in this litigation concluded that HEW should have considered these proffered justifications.

It therefore remanded to the agency for further consideration.

On that remand, HEW determined that the justifications did not adequately rebut the prima facie evidence of discrimination.

Then back in the District Court, the HEW upheld the finding of ineligibility and denied relief. And on appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

In an opinion filed today, we hold that discriminatory impact is the standard by which ineligibility under the Act is to be measured and that this is so irrespective of whether the discrimination relates to demotion or dismissal of personnel or to the hiring, promotion, or assignment of employees.

To treat as ineligible only an applicant with a past or a conscious present intent to perpetuate racial isolation would defeat the stated objective of ending de facto as well as de jure segregation.

And we thus reject the Board's argument that disparate impact was applicable to demotions and dismissals but that intent to discriminate was essential in a case such as this one relating to assignment of employees.

We further hold that a prima facie case of discriminatory impact may be made by proper statistical study that such a case was established here and that the burden of rebutting it is on the applicant.

And the judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore affirmed.

And I'm authorized to state that Mr. Justice Stewart has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined in that opinion by Mr. Justice Powell and Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Blackmun.