Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Act) sets forth two alternative courses of action by which enforcement may be effected. It includes the proviso that the institution must first be notified and given a chance to comply. Although the Act does not provide a limit to the time period for voluntary compliance, a request for voluntary compliance, if not followed by responsive action on the part of the institution within a reasonable time, does not relieve the Department of Health, Education and Welfare of the responsibility to enforce the Act by one of the two alternative means contemplated by 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000d-1. A consistent failure to do so is a dereliction of duty reviewable in the courts.
Certain black students, citizens, and taxpayers filed an action to secure declaratory and injunctive relief against the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), and the Director of HEW's Office of Civil Rights, alleging in their complaint that the appellants were derelict in their duty to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because they did not taken appropriate action to end segregation in public educational institutions receiving federal funds. The District Court found appellants' performance to fall below that required of them under Title VI. On appeal, HEW argued that the enforcement of the Act was committed to agency discretion, and that review of such action was therefore not within the jurisdiction of the courts.
Does the failure to respond within a reasonable time to a request by HEW relieve HEW of the responsibility to enforce Title VI by one of the two alternative means contemplated by 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000d-1?
The court found that although the Act did not provide a specific limit to the time period within which voluntary compliance by educational institutions could be sought, it was clear that a failure to respond within a reasonable time to a request by HEW did not relieve HEW of the responsibility to enforce Title VI by one of the two alternative means contemplated by 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000d-1. The court concluded that a consistent failure to do so was a dereliction of duty reviewable in the courts. The court found that HEW lacked experience in dealing with colleges and universities and noted that HEW had not yet formulated guidelines for desegregating statewide systems of higher learning. The court modified the district court's injunction order and found that HEW should call upon the states in question to submit plans within 120 days. The court concluded that if an acceptable plan had not been arrived at within an additional period of 180 days, HEW had to initiate compliance procedures.