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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 ...

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