Green v. County School Board of New Kent County

PETITIONER: Charles C. Green et al.
RESPONDENT: County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia et al.
LOCATION: New Kent County School Board

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 391 US 430 (1968)
ARGUED: Apr 03, 1968
DECIDED: May 27, 1968
GRANTED: Dec 11, 1967

Frederick T. Gray - for the respondents
Jack Greenberg - for the petitioners
Louis F. Claiborne - for the United States, as amicus curiae
Samuel W. Tucker - for the petitioners

Facts of the case

New Kent County had two schools that taught students elementary through high school. Prior to 1965, New Kent school taught all white students, while George W. Watkins school taught all African American students. After Brown v. Board of Education, the school district implemented a “freedom of choice” plan, where all students could choose which school they wanted to attend. While the school district did not prevent anyone from attending the school they wanted to, only a few African American students transferred to New Kent and no white students transferred to George W. Watkins. Several students and parents from the school district brought this action against the school district, arguing that the plan did not adequately integrate the school system. The district court upheld the plan. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed, but remanded the case for a more specific order concerning desegregation of teachers.


Does the “freedom of choice plan” violate equal protection where evidence shows that the plan is not likely to bring about desegregation?

Media for Green v. County School Board of New Kent County

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 03, 1968 in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County

Earl Warren:

Number 695 Charles C. Green, et. al., Petitioners, versus County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia et. al.

Mr. Tucker.

Samuel W. Tucker:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This case is here on a writ of certiorari to the Fourth Circuit.

The case involves the public schools of New Kent County, Virginia.

There are but two such schools, each with its elementary and high school department serving grades 1 through 12.

There is no residential segregation in New Kent County.

White families and Negro families live in every part of the county, yet three years ago no child of either race have been brought into contact with persons of the other race as a part of his normal daily public school experience.

In March of 1956 when this action was commenced, some 739 Negro children attended George Watkins located in the western half of the county, and some 522 white children attended New Kent School located in the eastern half of the county.

18 Indian children living in New Kent County were transported by public school to Sumari Indian School in adjoining Charles City County.

For more than ten years, the county school board of New Kent has simply ignored this Court decision in school segregation cases and we submit they had no intention of complying unless required.

Negro citizens of the county petitioned the school board to end racial segregation in the school system.

They too were ignored.

On March 15, 1965, 36 Negro school children and their parents brought this class action in the eastern district of Virginia praying that the school board be required to adopt and forthwith implement a plan which will provide for the prompt and efficient elimination of racial segregation in the public schools.

This action so far as its heading, brought in a result, be as well have been ignored.

On June 1, 1965 when the defendants answered, they said in effect that the school board has no due to the desegregate the schools and if any Negro parent was unhappy about the attendance of his child at the Watkins School, you need only to apply to the Virginia People Placement Board for transfer of the child to the New Kent School.

Such -- and such is the board's position today, except for the fact that the board has reassumed irresponsibility of assignment and transfers, and the further fact of the State People Placement Board no longer exists.

After the school board -- the school officials had filed their answer, they found themselves faced, as many school boards around the country, are faced with the threat of loosing federal funds under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So, like most of the school boards in the south, the New Kent board on August 2, 1965 while the litigation was pending, adopted what was basically a standard freedom of choice plan meeting what were then the minimum requirements of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Essentially, this meant that any child or his parents could only before May 31 of any year choose whether the child would attend the New Kent School or the Watkins School.

Now of course the predictable practicality of the adoption of the freedom of choice plan was that no white parent was going to choose for his child to attend the Watkins School, and only the more aggressive Negro parents would risk their child being an unwanted intruder at the New Kent School.

On June 28, 1966 the District Court approved the plan as supplemented.

There were some additions to provide for faculty desegregation which did not come in effect however the following year.

The case was retained on the docket with the lead to either pardon or to seek further relief.

The court's memorandum noting that it may be necessary, or may become necessary to revoke in full or in part the approval which the court had given the plan.

But meanwhile, 35 Negro children had broken tradition by enrolling in the New Kent School in the fall of 1965.

On appeal by the plaintiffs, this case was, and the case against the county school board of Charles City County, it was Bowman or Cole, were argued in the Fourth Circuit on January 9, 1967.

And at that time, some 111 Negro children had obtained assignments in New Kent School.

No white child was enrolled in Watkins School and no white person taught at Watkins.

One Negro teacher visited New Kent two days per week or the equivalent day.