School Bd. of Richmond v. State Bd. of Ed. of Va.

PETITIONER: School Bd. of Richmond
RESPONDENT: State Bd. of Ed. of Va.
LOCATION: University of Washington Law School

DOCKET NO.: 72-549
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 412 US 92 (1973)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1973
DECIDED: May 21, 1973

George B. Little - for petitioners in No. 72 549
Philip B. Kurland - for respondents in both cases
William T. Coleman, Jr. - for petitioners in No. 72—550

Facts of the case


Media for School Bd. of Richmond v. State Bd. of Ed. of Va.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1973 in School Bd. of Richmond v. State Bd. of Ed. of Va.

Warren E. Burger:

-- this morning on number 72-549 and 72-550, School Board of Richmond against the State Board of Education and Bradley against the State Board of Education.

Mr. Coleman, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

William T. Coleman, Jr.:

Good Morning Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The basic issue here is whether 19 years after Brown, State created school division lines which were bamboo curtains in the cause of school segregation in Virginia, lines which were freely and repeatedly crossed and ignored to maintain segregated schools in Virginia, now become iron curtains constituting an absolute bar to the effective desegregation plan before the court below.

For in this case, the District Court found as a fact that Virginia through its spate school officials, its legislature and its school division, including that of Richmond, repeatedly and consistently violated the Black petitioner's constitutional right to attend public schools free from state sponsored racial segregation.

In other words, the question here is whether a District Court is without power to prove a desegregation relief plan, solely because it involves inner division of assignment of pupils among adjacent divisions.

And if this Court determines that that power does exists, was there a gross abuse of discretion to exercise it here when the record includes undisturbed findings that; one, Virginia including the three sub -- the three school divisions here involved, repeatedly ignored the division lines to revert to preserve segregated schools.

Second, that it was no longer possible to achieve effective and complete desegregation within the confines of Virginia -- of Richmond school division itself.

Third, that repeated unconstitutional acts and intentional delays directed by Virginia created this situation.

Fourth, the school division line served no useful administrative or educational purpose and the result of such failure would to be to have black and white schools within walking distance of each other.

In addition, the two adjoining school divisions here involved, Henrico and Chesterfield, were themselves operating non-unitary racial system.

Petitioners in number 72-550 are black school children.

The defendants are the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the three division, school superintendents who under Virginia law incidentally are centrally nominated.

The legislative bodies of Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield and the school boards of these three divisions, each of which under Virginia law is an administrative subdivision of the state.

Potter Stewart:

Id that the School Superintendents, Mr. Coleman, are centrally nominated?

William T. Coleman, Jr.:


Potter Stewart:

What does that mean?

William T. Coleman, Jr.:

Under Virginia law, it’s provided that the State Board of Education makes up a list of people eligible to be appointed and the school divisions can appoint only from that list.

And in fact, the Virginia law provides that if within 60 days the person is not appointed if there is a vacancy, the State Board itself makes the appointment and incidentally in this case, the school’s superintendent of the division of Chesterfield was appointed in that manner.

He was appointed by the State because Chesterfield within 60 days had not made the appointment.

Now from 1871 until the time of the Brown decision, Virginia’s constitution, its statues and all of it’s policy making authorities compel each school division to operate racially segregated schools.

At the time of the Brown decision, the school population of the Richmond division was 43% black and 57% white.

In Chesterfield, it was 21% black and 79% white.

In Henrico, it was 11% black and 89% white.

For the three divisions together, however, the composite figure was 33.7% black and 66.3% white.

And as I stated before in each division regardless of what the local division would want to do, by state law, black and white had to attend wholly separate schools.

Now unfortunately, Brown brought no change whatsoever.

On pages 18 through 22 of our brief, we recount the very successful state actions by state officials with School Division Cooperation to keep Virginia schools segregated into position, then a statute under which the Governor would takeover any school which voluntarily or by quota admitted blacks, then a Pupil Placement Law and then the State Tuitions Laws.

Now the Pupil Placement Law as this Court knows was particularly effective.

As stated in Bradley, it took out of the hands of the school boards and school superintendent any decision relating to the integration of the school.