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BLOCKER v. BOARD OF EDUC. OF MANHASSET

January 24, 1964

Ralph BLOCKER, a minor, by Mr. and Mrs. Albert W. Knox, his guardians and next friend, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MANHASSET, NEW YORK, Dr. Raymond L. Collins, Superintendent of Schools of the Board of Education of Manhasset, New York, Mrs. Daniel S. Brock, President, Board of Education of Manhasset, New York, Dr. Erwin W. Bard, William F. X. Geoghan, Jr., Walter W. Jeffers and Henry N. Patterson, Members of the Board of Education of Manhasset, New York, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ZAVATT

The Complaint

This is a class action instituted by several Negro minors who reside within Union Free School District No. 6, Manhasset, New York (the District), against the Board of Education of the District (sued herein as The Board of Education of Manhasset, New York), its members and its Superintendent of Schools. The plaintiffs allege that they and the members of their class are discriminated against by the defendants by being racially segregated in the use and enjoyment of the public schools of the District; that the defendants are denying them their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States *fn1" and the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. *fn2" They seek a declaratory judgment to the effect that the rules, regulations and procedures of the Board are unconstitutional because they require, permit or sanction racially segregated public schools. They seek, further, a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from continuing to enforce these rules, regulations and procedures; from assigning them to a racially segregated school; requiring the defendants to eliminate patterns of racial segregation; to submit a desegregation plan and to delineate and maintain new school attendance areas for the purpose of creating and perpetuating positive racial integration patterns. Jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(3). *fn3"

 The District

 The Manhasset School District, comprising an area of approximately five and one half square miles, is shown on the following map:[SEE ILLUSTRATION IN ORIGINAL]

 It is situated along the north shore of Long Island, approximately 30 miles from and within commuting distance of New York City. The major portion of the District is at the base of Manhasset Peninsula in the Town of North Hampstead, Nassau County, New York. The southwest corner of the District extends into a part of the base of the Great Neck Peninsula. These two peninsulas form the eastern and western shores of Manhasset Bay. A small stream runs from Whitney Lake northwardly through a valley into the Bay. The District is bisected by a four lane, heavily trafficked, main arterial highway, Northern Boulevard, which runs northeastwardly and southwestwardly through the lower third of the District.

 One Junior High School and one Senior High School, indicated at point 1 on the map, serve the entire District. The District is divided into three elementary school attendance areas, within each of which there is a school for kindergarten through the sixth grade. Children living within each attendance area must attend the elementary school situated within that area; the transfer of a child living in one area to an elementary school within another area is not permitted. The Plandome Road School, indicated at point 2 on the map, serves an area of approximately three square miles. The Valley School, indicated at point 3 on the map, serves an area of approximately one-half square mile. The Munsey Park School, indicated at point 4 on the map, serves an area of approximately two square miles.

 From the inception of the District during the early 1800's until 1928, all elementary school children attended one school situated on the site of the present Plandome Road School. At that time, most of the present Munsey Park and Plandome attendance areas were undeveloped. From approximately 1921 until an elementary school was erected in the present Valley area, some elementary grade classes were held for children residing in this section of the District in a rented store. It was in response to the demands of the residents of what is now known as the Valley area that the electors of the District approved an elementary school site on Spinney Hill (within that area) by a vote of 92 to 2 at a District meeting held May 11, 1928. At a meeting held February 18, 1929, they authorized the expenditure of $ 200,000 to erect an elementary school on this site. At a District meeting of the electors held May 7, 1929, the Board announced that it had fixed the attendance area lines for this school. No alteration of this attendance area has ever been made by the Board. The boundaries remain today as they were when first established, except for the fact that a small portion of this area was acquired by eminent domain for park purposes. The Valley attendance area is shown on the above map as lying within the heavy black lines at the southwest corner of the District.

 From approximately 1929 on, other sections of the District developed steadily as luxurious residential neighborhoods. By 1939, the Munsey Park area had developed to such an extent that a third elementary school area was carved out of the original District wide elementary school area and thus, by 1939, the District contained three elementary school areas. Certain modifications of the boundary line between the Munsey Park and Plandome Road attendance areas were made as the residential development of these two sections of the District progressed. These modifications are not material to the issues in this case. The Munsey Park attendance area lies within the heavy black lines drawn on the map through the eastern portion of the District. The Plandome Road attendance area lies between the other two. The undeveloped portion of the Plandome Road area is situated in the southerly portion thereof. It comprises the Whitney estate, an area of 600 acres -- 150 of which are within a 2 acre zoning use district; 450 acres of which are in a one-third acre zoning use district. If, as and when this estate is developed for residential purposes, it is estimated that it will have a capacity of approximately 1,075 one-family residences.

 The Elementary School Population of the District

 During the early 1920's, the Valley area was populated by seventy to eighty families, five of which (7%) were Negro. By 1933, the percentage of the Negro population had risen to between 30% And 40%; to 50% By 1940; 90% By 1950 or 1951. Although the record is silent as to the present percentage of Negro residents in the Valley area, the percentage of Negro students in the Valley School as of October 1, 1962 is indicative. Of the total of 166 children attending the Valley School all but 10 or approximately 94% Are Negro. No Negro children attend either the Plandome Road or Munsey Park Schools. At various times in the past, the only circumstance under which any Negro child attended these two schools was while his parents were live-in domestics in the employ of residents of one of these areas. The total elementary school population of the entire District, as of October 1, 1962, was distributed as follows: Percentage of Attendance Enrollment Total Area Oct. 1, 1962 Enrollment Valley 166 12.38% Plandome Road 600 44.78% Munsey Park 574 42.84% 1,340 100.00%

 Of the 1,340 elementary school children in the District, 1,174 or 87.62% Attend two all-white schools. All of the Negro children of the District attend the Valley School. The 10 white children attending the Valley School represent only 8/10ths of one per cent of the total white elementary school population of the District. Thus, 99.2% Of the white children of the District attend two all-white schools, while 100% Of the Negro children attend a separate school.

 The Wide Gap in Socioeconomic Levels

 To argue, as do the defendants, that Negro residents have come to the Valley voluntarily and segregated themselves is to ignore the actualities. The greater part of the District is populated by families whose incomes far exceed the national average. The majority of its residents are in the upper middle to high socioeconomic class. Only a small minority, the residents of the Valley, are in the low socioeconomic class. They are foreclosed from the Plandome Road and Munsey Park areas by reason of economic necessity.

 The wide gap between the socioeconomic level of the Valley residents and that of the residents in the two other attendance areas is evidenced by the differences in residential development as well as parental occupation. The Munsey Park and Plandome Road areas of the District contain within their boundaries all or portions of several of the most attractive, desirable and expensive residential communities within the Town of Hempstead. It is apparent from personal inspection and expert testimony that only persons of considerable means can afford to purchase or lease and maintain the homes in these communities. The Valley area is at the bottom of the real estate value scale. The most significant aspects of housing in this area are Spinney Hill Homes, a low-rent public housing project of the North Hempstead Housing Authority completed in December 1951 at a cost of $ 1,800,000, and Pond View Homes, another such project now under construction. Spinney Hill Homes consists of ten very attractive and apparently well constructed, garden type, two story brick buildings on eight acres adjacent to the Valley School. It provides 102 living units, ranging in size from 3 1/2 to 6 1/2 rooms, at rents so attractive that the project has been fully occupied ever since the date of its completion: Size of 1951 Rent Present Rent Apartment Per Month Per Year Per Month Per Year 3 1/2 rooms $ 36.50 $ 438.00 $ 52.00 $ 624.00 4 1/2 " 39.50 474.00 57.00 684.00 5 1/2 " 42.50 510.00 61.00 732.00 6 1/2 " 49.50 594.00 64.00 768.00 The median annual income of families in the Valley area is $ 4,700. The annual family income of occupants of these public housing units is indicated by the tenant qualification provisions of the New York Public Housing Law, McKinney's N.Y.Laws, Public Housing Law, § 156, subd. 1, par. a. They limit the availability of such units to 'persons or families of low income whose probable aggregate annual income during the period of occupancy does not exceed six times the rental.' As to 'persons or families with four or more dependents, such ratio shall not exceed seven to one.' At these ratios, and in the absence of a special exception approved by the State Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal, the maximum annual aggregate family incomes may not exceed: Present Size of Annual Aggregate Family Income Apartment Rent 6 to 1 7 to 1 3 1/2 rooms $ 624.00 $ 3,744.00 $ 4,368.00 4 1/2 " 684.00 4,104.00 4,788.00 5 1/2 " 732.00 4,392.00 5,124.00 6 1/2 " 768.00 4,608.00 5,376.00

 Apartments must be rented to eligible persons and families 'without regard to race, religion, color or national origin' and priority and preference must be given to those eligibles residing within a radius of one mile of the project. McKinney's N.Y.Laws, Public Housing Law, § 156, subd. 5. The Authority keeps no records of the race or color of its tenants. Its Executive Secretary, however, estimates that in 1951 the 102 units were occupied by 30 white (29.4%) and 72 Negro (70.6%) families; that, presently, there are 17 to 18 white (16.6%) and 83 to 84 Negro (83.4%) families in possession. This project is occupied by approximately 425 persons of whom roughly 175 are children.

 In response to the need for additional low-rent housing in the Town of North Hempstead, the Authority is constructing Pond View Homes on a site approximately 1,200 feet east of the Valley School. It will be similar in construction and layout to Spinney Hill Homes; will consist of six buildings with a total of 52 units, ranging from 2 1/2 to 7 1/2 rooms; will cost approximately $ 1,500,000 and be ready for occupancy about April 1964. For a distance of approximately 3/10ths to 4/10ths of a mile from the Valley area and within the adjoining Great Neck School District, the socioeconomic level and the racial character are similar to those of the Valley area. The Authority has on hand applications for low-rent housing accommodations filed by 48 residents of the Manhasset School District and 67 residents of the Great Neck School District. In view of the preference which must be given to eligibles, regardless of race or color, residing within a radius of one mile of a public housing project, it is to be expected that the 52 units of Pond View Homes will be occupied by a preponderance of Negro families.

 A comparison of the occupations of parents of the children attending the elementary schools in the three areas illustrates further the vast gap between the socioeconomic level of the Valley area and that of the Plandome Road and Munsey Park areas. See Appendix. Housing patterns as well as parental occupations indicate that the residents of the Munsey Park area are at the highest socioeconomic level; those in the Plandome Road area slightly below; those in the Valley area at a much lower level. The disparity is great.

 Comparative Scholastic Achievement

 Achievement tests are administered annually to all children in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades of the three schools. The tests of 5th and 6th grade children relate to paragraph meaning, word meaning, spelling, language, arithmetic reasoning and arithmetic computation. The tests of 4th grade children cover only average reading, paragraph meaning and word meaning. The defendants concede that, over the years, the scores of the Valley children, as a group, have been and continue to be from two to three grade levels below those of the children in the same grades at the other two schools, as groups, and approximately one grade level below the national norm, in terms of their scholastic achievement in the subjects covered by the tests.

 The plaintiffs point to these comparative achievement scores as some evidence of alleged deprivation of equality of educational opportunity. The defendants counter that a comparison of such scores is meaningless unless scholastic achievement is measured against intellectual capacity; that the differences in the IQ ranges of the students in each school must be taken into consideration, see Bell v. School City of Gary, Indiana, 213 F.Supp. 819, 828 (N.D.Ind.), aff'd, 324 F.2d 209 (7th Cir. 1963), as well as the differences in their socioeconomic levels, including home environment and parental occupation. Reference to this aspect of the case is made below.

 The Concern of the Teachers

 Long before this lawsuit, the teachers of the District expressed their concern about the education of the Valley children, at meetings of the All-School Council, a faculty organization composed of voting members who represent the faculty councils of their respective public schools of the District. Although the meetings of this Council are open to all public school teachers of the District and their ideas are welcomed, only those who officially represent their respective school councils may vote. Each elementary school council is represented by two voting members. It is not clear from the record whether the Junior and Senior High Schools are each represented by the same or a greater number of voting members. The Deputy Superintendent of Schools in Charge of Education, Dr. Henry M. Brickell, serves as Secretary of the Council, prepares the agenda for and the minutes of each meeting and distributes a copy of the minutes to all members of the staff. The Superintendent of Schools, the defendant Dr. Raymond L. Collins, presides as Chairman. It is to be noted that Dr. Collins and Dr. Brickell also attend all meetings of the defendant School Board; that Dr. Brickell serves as Secretary to that Board and that all communications addressed to the Board, including those from Dr. Collins, are routed through him.

 All-School Council Meeting of February 7, 1957

 The agenda for the meeting of February 7, 1957, included consideration of the report of the Citizens' Committee on Enrollment and New Construction. The defendant School Board had been concerned about the problems that would arise if, as and when the Whitney estate were sold and developed to its estimated potential of 1,075 new homes. The defendant School Board had appointed a committee of citizens of the District to study student enrollment trends, future school building needs and to make recommendations as to appropriate action by the Board in the event of the sale and development of the Whitney estate. In November 1956 the Committee filed its final report, 'A Study of School Building Problems of the Manhasset School District.' Its long-range recommendations included: the erection of an elementary school building on the Whitney estate property, when it was sold for development, to accommodate the children who would then live in that area; continued use of the Valley and the Munsey Park elementary schools; the erection of a new, smaller elementary school building on the site of the present Plandome Road School; an additional elementary school building to be erected either in North Plandome or in the Strathmore-Vanderbilt section (a 15 acre school site in this section had been purchased by the defendant District in 1945 for future use). A summary of this report was attached to and distributed with the agenda in advance of the All-School Council meeting of February 7, 1957 and each delegate was requested to solicit the reactions of as many faculty members as possible.

 Although the report did not include the subject of eventual integration of the Valley School children, the teacher representatives brought it up at the meeting and requested that the entire staff consider it at the meeting of March 7th. The minutes of February 7th record:

 '1. The eventual integration of children now attending the Valley School with children now attending other Manhasset public elementary schools in the district. Representatives seem to feel that each elementary school should have a student population which is culturally, socially and economically heterogeneous. Specific methods for doing this were discussed briefly but the discussion emphasized the objective rather than the techniques.'

 All-School Council Meeting of March 7, 1957

 This item failed to appear on the agenda for the meeting of March 7, 1957. Nevertheless, it was brought up again by teacher representatives. The minutes of this meeting record:

 'Representatives discussed at some length various proposals for the immediate or eventual integration of children now attending the Valley School with children attending other elementary schools in the district. No one alternative was selected definitely, but feeling was strong that integration of the elementary school population was highly desirable.'

 Dr. Brickell testified that the opinions expressed at this meeting represented the consensus of opinion of those present; that these teachers expressed the opinion that it would be better if the Valley children were combined with those of the other elementary schools; that they referred to conditions in the community, as well as conditions in the school, which they felt would make for better education, if the children were combined. He testified, further, that these suggestions were not conditioned upon the breakup of the Whitney estate, although further suggestions were made with reference to that event.

 All-School Council Special Meeting of March 21, 1957 and Dr. Collins' Memorandum of March 25, 1957 to the Board

 Dr. Brickell presided at this meeting in the absence of Dr. Collins. It was called to consider further what complete plan for major construction should be recommended to the Board. At the meeting the draft of Dr. Collins' tentative recommendations was discussed and a number of suggested changes were made. Following this meeting, Dr. Collins prepared his memorandum to the Board, dated March 25, 1957, a copy of which is attached to and incorporated in the minutes of the March 21st meeting. It constituted Dr. Collins' amended recommendations to the Board. As to 'Long Range Plans,' it included the continuance of the Valley School as a K-6 school '(or K-3 if necessary),' a further recommendation that 'the plans should be made in such a way that the eventual integration of the Valley School children with other elementary school children in the district will be possible' and a recommendation that a committee be appointed to study this problem:

 'Citizens Committee Study -- In view of the intense interest of the staff and the growing interest of a certain group of the Valley area residents in the eventual integration of Valley children with other elementary children, we would like to recommend to the Board that a large representative Citizens Committee of competent and respected residents be appointed to study this problem. It seems to us that this is a community problem as much as it is a school problem. Consequently, we think that any solution of it will have to be made by a broadly representative group. Any work done by a Citizens Committee appointed by the Board would take an extended period of time and would perhaps be only a beginning toward designing suitable attendance areas.'

 (At the trial Dr. Collins, Dr. Brickell and members of the Board testified that they had never heard a complaint from any Valley parent about the racial composition of the student body of the Valley School; that the first such complaint was made by representatives of the local chapter of the NAACP when they met ...


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