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Caulfield v. Board of Education


decided: September 5, 1978.


Appeals from orders of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Jack B. Weinstein, Judge, (1) denying a motion for a preliminary injunction which sought to prevent collection of racial data and (2) remanding case to Department of Health, Education & Welfare (HEW). Order denying preliminary injunction affirmed. Order remanding case to HEW reversed.

Before Oakes and Van Graafeiland, Circuit Judges, and Pierce, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Oakes

On this consolidated appeal, the parties challenge two separate orders of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Jack B. Weinstein, Judge. The first is an order of February 24, 1978, denying the motion of plaintiffs-appellants (appellants) who are New York City teachers, principals, community school board officials and parent-teacher association officials, for a preliminary injunction to prevent city, state and federal officials, defendants-appellees (appellees), from collecting data on the ethnic identification of teachers and supervisors. Appellants appeal the denial of the preliminary injunction against data collection. In the second order, dated March 15, 1978, Judge Weinstein sua sponte remanded the case to the Department of Health, Education & Welfare (HEW) for further administrative proceedings to afford appellants and other interested persons the opportunity to participate in the administrative proceeding. The federal appellees have cross-appealed from the order remanding the proceedings to HEW.

With respect to the order denying the injunction against data collection, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to halt the collection of ethnic data on teachers and supervisors. We further hold that in its second order the district court erroneously remanded the case to HEW for further proceedings. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's order of February 24, 1978, but reverse its order of March 15, 1978.*fn1

I. Background

At this stage of the proceedings, no facts have been found, no stipulation of undisputed facts agreed upon, no evidentiary record developed. For purposes of the appeal, however, we will rely, as the district court did, on documents appended to various pleadings. These documents reveal that the principal subject of this lawsuit is a September 7, 1977, Memorandum of Understanding (Memorandum) between the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at HEW on the one hand and the Board of Education of the City of New York (City Board) on the other. The Memorandum obligated the City Board to alter certain teacher and supervisor employment and assignment practices and to remedy the discriminatory effect of those practices on a phased basis by 1980. For its part, OCR agreed that the City Board's promised actions would constitute compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d Et seq., and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-86.*fn2

The process leading up to negotiation of the Memorandum was set in motion on March 18, 1976, when the acting director of OCR wrote to the Chancellor of the City Board to notify him that OCR had received several complaints of discrimination by the City Board against minority teachers. The letter further informed the Chancellor that OCR would conduct a review of employment practices in the New York City school system to evaluate compliance with laws barring discrimination in federally financed programs. Following investigation, OCR informed Chancellor Anker by letter of November 9, 1976, that the City Board was in violation of Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and Section 901 of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681.*fn3 That letter discussed the City Board's employment practices, including its discriminatory methods of selection and assignment of teachers, called for submission of a remedial plan, and concluded by offering assistance in preparing the plan. Affidavits on file indicate that, at or about the same time, the OCR director attended a well publicized public briefing at which he explained OCR's findings and invited comments from those in attendance and from the community at large.

OCR's letter of November 9 prompted the establishment of an internal City Board committee to examine OCR's allegations. As part of its study, this committee consulted a number of organizations including some of those participating in this lawsuit as intervenors or amici curiae.*fn4 On April 22, 1977, before the internal committee had completed its study, the City Board forwarded to OCR its response to the November 9 letter. Without admitting any violation of law, the City Board expressed its determination to rectify "disparate employment opportunities" and proposed an equal employment opportunity plan to "insure equality of opportunity and avoidance of discrimination." The City Board's plan suggested affirmative efforts to increase the number of minority teachers, to improve integration of the teaching staff, and to correct disparities of experience, salary and educational level in the distribution of personnel. The plan also advocated goals for integration of faculty based upon a numerical index, legislative replacement of rank order lists with qualifying lists for teacher selection, and a new system of teacher certification and selection. However, OCR found the plan insufficient and notified the City Board on July 6, 1977, that it was principally concerned with the lack of specificity in the City Board's response. Just prior to OCR's rejection of the City Board's plan, the report of the internal City Board committee (the "Gifford Report") was published. The Gifford Report furnished documentary confirmation of the discriminatory and segregative nature of the City Board's employment practices.*fn5 This report may well have exerted some considerable influence in the City Board's ultimate decision to conclude the Memorandum with OCR.

In negotiating the Memorandum, the City Board requested that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), though not the other parties, be consulted on the terms of the agreement. The UFT was consulted and it agreed to support the adoption of legislation necessary to effectuate the Memorandum. In a press release the City Board hailed the agreement for having been reached "without resort to the courts or other confrontations that might have polarized our city." The release further described the Memorandum as an agreement which carries forward the existing affirmative action program and accepts a "commitment based on applicable standards of law." After the Memorandum was signed but prior to ratification, the City Board held a public meeting on October 19, 1977, with two weeks' advance notice. Thereafter, the City Board ratified the Memorandum by resolution.

On October 31, 1977, the appellants*fn6 filed this action seeking a declaration that certain provisions of the Memorandum were unconstitutional, illegal and invalid. They also sought an injunction against the enforcement of those provisions and against requiring the appellants to provide data on the ethnic background of teachers and supervisors. Appellants sought summary judgment or a preliminary injunction. After a hearing, the district court by order of February 24, 1978, ruled only on that part of the motion for a preliminary injunction which sought to enjoin the collection of ethnic data and denied relief.*fn7 A notice of appeal was filed. This court denied an injunction pending appeal but expedited the appeal.

By the same order, the district court sua sponte directed that the pleadings of all plaintiffs be amended to include a claim that their constitutional and statutory rights were abridged by OCR's failure "to afford them and other interested persons the opportunity . . . to participate in the administrative proceedings." The district court then ordered all parties to appear on March 7, 1978, to show cause why the action should not be remanded for OCR's failure to afford such participation. At the March 7, 1978, hearing no party requested a remand but rather each sought to have the proceedings continue in the district court so that the district judge might decide the legality of the Memorandum. However, on March 15, the court ordered the agreement vacated and remanded the case to OCR. It also ordered the City Board relieved of its obligations under the Memorandum, denied all pending motions as moot with leave to renew, and stayed all proceedings pending completion of the administrative hearings on remand. This appeal followed.*fn8

II. Discussion

A. Denial of the Preliminary Injunction Against Collection of Ethnic Data

Plaintiffs sought to enjoin the mandatory answering of ethnic questionnaries. These questionnaries were distributed to the school system's community school districts. All supervisors and teachers employed in the city's public schools were required to answer questions pertaining to their race, color, sex and national origin. In denying appellants' motion in the February 24 order, the district court made no findings of fact or conclusions of law, although it did note that there is a clear right and obligation of authorities to gather data in order to determine, Inter alia, whether there has been unlawful discrimination.

This court has recently clarified the standard for issuance of a preliminary injunction: there must be a showing of possible irreparable injury And either (1) probable success on the merits Or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation And a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party requesting the preliminary relief. Selchow & Righter Co. v. McGraw-Hill Book Co., 580 F.2d 25 at 27 (2d Cir. 1978); Triebwasser & Katz v. American Telephone & Telegraph Co., 535 F.2d 1356, 1358 (2d Cir. 1976); See Mulligan, Foreword Preliminary Injunction in the Second Circuit, 43 Brooklyn L.Rev. 831, 832-33 (1977). Since appellants neither presented nor sought to present any evidence in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction, all that the district court had before it was a question of law. Absent any evidence, the district court could not conclude that the appellants were likely to suffer irreparable injury, much less that the balance of hardships weighed decidedly in their favor. See Gillespie & Co. of New York v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 533 F.2d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1976) (per curiam).

Moreover, appellants have failed to show that they are likely to succeed on the merits. See id. They argue, first, that because the agreement between OCR and the Board was vacated by the district court, any racial/ethnic survey to be conducted in conjunction with the Memorandum is invalid. However, they have made no showing that the survey of the ethnic composition of the existing staff of the school system would only be conducted because the Memorandum provided for it. Indeed, for all that appears in the record, this survey is one routinely conducted by the City Board as part of its annual school census.

Appellants also argue that because Title VI does not prohibit racial/ethnic discrimination in employment where providing employment is not a primary objective of federal aid, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-3,*fn9 OCR cannot lawfully seek statistics regarding the ethnic and racial composition of the teaching staff. However, appellants have mischaracterized the nature of the OCR investigation. The charging letter of November 9, 1976, specifically noted that its concern with discriminatory employment practices was motivated by the unfortunate effect that these practices exercise on minority schoolchildren: "(B)y assigning teachers to schools in such a manner . . . (,) minority children are generally taught by teachers with less experience, lower salary and fewer advanced degrees." Accordingly, OCR's investigation falls within the parameters of 42 U.S.C. § 2000d,*fn10 and not 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-3, See note 9 Supra, since the objective of OCR's investigation was to alleviate discrimination against minority schoolchildren and not against minority teachers as such.*fn11 In the context of this OCR investigation, then, the collection of racial and ethnic data is authorized by Title VI.*fn12 See United States v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 372 F.2d 836, 882-84 (5th Cir. 1966), Aff'd, 380 F.2d 385 (5th Cir.) (en banc), Cert. denied, 389 U.S. 840, 88 S. Ct. 67, 19 L. Ed. 2d 103 (1967).

Appellant's additional arguments that the proposed census would violate other federal statutes and the Constitution are unpersuasive. The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, is invoked but it does not prohibit the collection or retention of such data in this context. Title VI and its regulations authorize the collection of staff data which in turn is permitted to be maintained under 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e)(1).*fn13 Nor does the Equal Education Opportunities Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1751, prohibit the collection of racial and ethnic staff data.*fn14 At this stage of the record, where it does not appear whether or not teacher and supervisor assignments in the New York public schools violate Title VI, plaintiffs' assertion that these practices are not violative cannot be taken as fact. Thus any suggestion that OCR's actions are directed at overcoming simple racial imbalance is premature.

Finally, the Constitution itself does not condemn the collection of this data. Cf. United States v. State of New Hampshire, 539 F.2d 277, 280-82 (1st Cir.) (upholding as constitutional a requirement pursuant to § 709(c) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(c), that the State provide racial and ethnic employee data to the federal government on an EEO-4 form), Cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1023 (1976). The one-sentence argument that the census produces a Fourth Amendment violation is frivolous; there is no search or seizure here involved. Nor is there a violation of the constitutional right of privacy of teachers and principals within Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510 (1965), or Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1973). See Note, On Privacy: Constitutional Protection for Personal Liberty, 48 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 670, 673-78, 697-701, 770-72 (1973); Cf. Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589, 97 S. Ct. 869, 51 L. Ed. 2d 64 (1977) (statute requiring submission of form with patient's name to State Department of Health in case of certain prescription drugs not unconstitutional); Schachter v. Whalen, 581 F.2d 35 (2d Cir. 1978) (statute granting power to subpoena medical records from doctor under investigation by State not unconstitutional).

B. District Court Remand to HEW

The federal appellees, as cross-appellants, argue strenuously that the district court erred in sua sponte remanding the case to HEW.*fn15 We agree.

Section 602 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-1,*fn16 provides for three types of action to secure compliance with the substantive provisions of Section 601, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d:*fn17 (1) refusal to grant or termination of assistance, (2) other means authorized by law such as a reference to the Department of Justice, 45 C.F.R. § 80.8(a);*fn18 and (3) voluntary means. Where the agency seeks to compel compliance through termination of funds or other means, Section 602 requires that the agency proceed by formal means including an administrative hearing at which a record is made. Before doing so, however, HEW must attempt to secure compliance by voluntary means. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-1; See note 16 Supra.*fn19

While HEW's regulations specify a variety of procedures to effectuate fund termination,*fn20 they do not provide for public participation or a hearing when HEW acts informally.*fn21 In addition, pursuant to Executive Order 11764 of January 21, 1974, granting the Attorney General authority to prescribe standards and procedures for Title VI enforcement, the Attorney General has adopted regulations which provide simply that any agreement to "take remedial steps . . . shall be set forth in writing by the recipient and the federal agency(,) . . . specify the action necessary for the correction of Title VI deficiencies and . . . be available to the public." 28 C.F.R. § 42.411(b). No other procedures, such as a hearing or public participation, are required. These regulations are entitled to some weight in construing the meaning of Title VI. See Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563, 566-69, 94 S. Ct. 786, 39 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1974); Udall v. Tallman, 380 U.S. 1, 16, 85 S. Ct. 792, 13 L. Ed. 2d 616 (1965).

Because HEW did not seek compliance by fund termination, but rather by a voluntary agreement, HEW was not required to afford cross-appellees an opportunity to participate. The action taken here to effect compliance was precisely the type of action contemplated by Congress in using the phrase "voluntary means." 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-1; See note 16 Supra.

Nevertheless, the district court held that participation was mandatory on the basis that the agreement was not voluntary. The principal reason for the district court's finding of involuntariness was that the City Board, along with the City as a whole, was in the midst of a fiscal crisis and presumably could not afford a fund termination while it litigated the issue of Title VI compliance. But the only fund termination sought by HEW related not to Title VI funds but to Emergency School Aid Act funds.*fn22 To be sure, a threat of potential fund termination lurked in the background since without such leverage voluntary compliance might possibly never be achieved. And after all, if there is lack of compliance, HEW is obligated to enforce the statute ultimately by terminating funds. Adams v. Richardson, 156 U.S.App.D.C. 267, 271, 480 F.2d 1159, 1163 (1973).*fn23 Undoubtedly then there is a certain amount of coercion inherent in the enforcement scheme. See United States v. Jefferson County Board of Education, supra, 372 F.2d at 856 (quoting Report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Survey of School Desegregation in the Southern and Border States 1965-1966, 2).

Undercutting any actual coercion, however, are several points. The City Board's own study, the Gifford Report, confirmed the conditions cited in the November 9 letter from OCR. Moreover, the City Board's press release indicated that the agreement had been reached in a spirit of cooperation. And of course, the lack of participation by the Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) cannot render a voluntary agreement involuntary. The City Board's commitments under the Memorandum, despite its impact on teachers and supervisors, came about by the City Board's decision to comply with OCR's interpretation of Title VI, not by any fund-termination action by OCR. Cf. Maher v. Roe, 432 U.S. 464, 475-76 & n. 9, 97 S. Ct. 2376, 2383, 53 L. Ed. 2d 484 (1977) (distinction between direct "interference with a protected activity and . . . encouragement of an alternative (permissible) activity"). In addition, there was ample opportunity to communicate with the City Board between the time the terms of the agreement became publicly known and the time of its ratification, but no party, including CSA, sought to participate during that hiatus, although most parties were consulted in the interim.

In any event, the statutory scheme requires a hearing with notice only when HEW seeks fund termination. See, Board of Public Instruction of Palm Beach County v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 1201, 1202-03 (5th Cir. 1969). Where, as here, Congress has determined what procedures shall be required in effecting compliance with Title VI, the courts may not override that determination simply because they believe other procedures would be preferable. See Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 435 U.S. 519, 546, 98 S. Ct. 1197, 55 L. Ed. 2d 460 (1978).

Order denying preliminary injunction on collection of racial/ethnic data affirmed; order remanding to HEW for administrative proceedings reversed; cause remanded to the district court for hearing on the merits.

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