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Lora v. Board of Education

decided: June 2, 1980.


Appeal from an order of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Jack B. Weinstein, Judge), directing the New York City Board of Education to remedy alleged violations of constitutional and statutory rights of emotionally handicapped children. Affirmed in part, vacated and remanded in part for further consideration in accordance with this opinion.

Before Mulligan and Oakes, Circuit Judges, and Pollack, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Pollack

In a class suit action against the New York City Board of Education (the "Board") seeking to remedy alleged violations of constitutional and statutory rights, the Board has been ordered to institute sweeping reforms in its programs for the education of emotionally handicapped children. Underlying the order is the District Court's indication that racial discrimination in violation of constitutional mandates as well as violations of the federal statute titled "Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975" (the "EHA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401 et seq. (1978), mar the present administration for school programs for emotionally handicapped children and require the District Court, in effect, to take judicial control of the formulation and prescription of appropriate educational remedies. For the reasons indicated hereafter it is necessary to remand this case to the District Court for further proceedings.*fn1

Defendants-Appellants Board of Education et al. appeal from all but one section of Judge Weinstein's 10-point order below, dated July 2, 1979. The underlying suit was originally commenced on June 11, 1975 by 7 Black and Hispanic New York City Public School students who were assigned to "special day schools" for the education of the socially maladjusted and emotionally disturbed. The original complaint alleged violations of plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983; and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.

Shortly before trial began on May 2, 1977, a first amended and supplemental complaint was filed which, inter alia, withdrew the claims under the Fourth, Eighth and Thirteenth Amendments. After trial, at the Court's suggestion, a second amended and supplemental complaint was filed to reflect the evidence presented at trial. This complaint included claims under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 ("EHA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1401 et seq. (1978), and its implementing regulations at 45 C.F.R. § 121a et seq. (1977); the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (1978), and its implementing regulations, 45 C.F.R. § 84 et seq. (1977); and the regulations of the Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, 8 N.Y.C.R.R. § 200 et seq. (1977).

Appellants resist all but Part III of the order entered below (dealing with individualized education programs and due process documents). We affirm Part III of the order, and vacate and remand the remaining portions of the order for clarification in accordance with this opinion.

In reaching its conclusions, the District Court applied standards falling short of those announced by the Supreme Court after the decision was made below, in Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman, 443 U.S. 526, 99 S. Ct. 2971, 2978 n. 9, 61 L. Ed. 2d 720 (1979) and Columbus Board of Education v. Penick, 443 U.S. 449, 99 S. Ct. 2941, 61 L. Ed. 2d 666 (1979) which held that "foreseeable result" is one type of quite relevant evidence of racially discriminatory purpose but, standing alone is not sufficient to establish the requisite discriminatory intent on the part of the Board. Such intent is required, whether the Board's actions are being evaluated under the Equal Protection Clause or under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. See, Board of Education of City School District of New York v. Harris, 444 U.S. 130, 100 S. Ct. 363, 62 L. Ed. 2d 275, aff'g Board of Education of City School District of New York v. Califano, 584 F.2d 576 (2d Cir. 1978); Parent Association of Andrew Jackson High School v. Ambach, 598 F.2d 705, 715 (2d Cir. 1979); Harris v. White, 479 F. Supp. 996, 1002 (D.Mass.1979). The standard of discrimination in Title VI is the same standard the Supreme Court establishes for discrimination under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; "Title VI prohibits only purposeful discrimination." Board of Education v. Harris, supra, 100 S. Ct. at p. 379 (Stewart, J., dissenting).*fn2

We think it proper for the District Court in the first instance to apply Brinkman and Penick to the present case, and make a searching inquiry into intent, supported by specific findings. Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 97 S. Ct. 555, 50 L. Ed. 2d 450 (1977).

The lack of specific findings in the carefully articulated opinion is the second problem which the District Court must remedy.

In an action tried without a jury, Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) requires the Court to "find the facts specially and state separately its conclusions of law thereon." Before a school system is put into a judicial receivership there must be some recognizable straightforward finding that plaintiffs have met their burden to show segregated impact and purpose; that the defined action of the school authorities was intended to, and did in fact discriminate against minority pupils. While foreseeable effects are permissible proofs of some of the components on which a decision is reached, discriminatory purpose as a motivating factor must be found to conclude the existence of a constitutional violation. The focus of the inquiry must be whether there was a desire to separate the races among the reasons for the school board's decision and particular course of action. Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney, 442 U.S. 256, 273-74, 99 S. Ct. 2282, 2293, 60 L. Ed. 2d 870 (1979).

It is the function of the District Judge to make findings from objective evidence of the presence or absence of discriminatory purpose; inferences from evidence of discriminatory impact will not substitute sufficiently for a finding of actual motivation in concluding that constitutional violation has occurred. The burden of proof remains with the plaintiffs on this issue. Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229, 96 S. Ct. 2040, 48 L. Ed. 2d 597 (1976). Foreseeability per se is insufficient since foreseeability may be helpless and unintentional. It is the trial court's duty to find and present the facts in such a way that an appellate court is not put to the task of sifting through the entire record below in an attempt to determine what facts support what conclusions. Welsh Co. of California v. Strolee, 290 F.2d 509, 511 (9th Cir. 1961). As a leading authority on federal practice has put it:

Ideally findings of fact should be clear, specific, and complete, without non-realistic and uninformative generality on the one hand, and on the other without an unnecessary and unhelpful recital of non-essential details of evidence.

9 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2579, at 711 (1971). See also Golf City, Inc. v. Wilson Sporting Goods, Inc., 555 F.2d 426 (5th Cir. 1977); Russo v. Central School District No. 1, 469 F.2d 623, 628-29 (2d Cir. 1972), cert. denied 411 U.S. 932, 93 S. Ct. 1899, 36 L. Ed. 2d 391 (1973); Deal v. Cincinnati Board of Education, 369 F.2d 55, 64 (6th Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 847, 88 S. Ct. 39, 19 L. Ed. 2d 114 (1967) (where the Sixth Circuit remanded in part a school desegregation case because the District Court's conclusion about the racial mix of the schools in Cincinnati was unsupported by subsidiary findings of fact).

The order on review treats together and intermingles relief and directions attributable to constitutional as well as statutory violation. Until the pivotal facts are found specially and using the appropriate standards the appropriate conclusions of law thereon are stated separately, the elimination of sections of the order ...

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