Green v. County School Board

391 U.S. 430, 88 S. Ct. 1689 (1968)



School boards operating state-compelled dual systems are clearly charged with the affirmative duty to take whatever steps might be necessary to convert to a unitary system in which racial discrimination is eliminated root and branch.


The parents maintained that the board had not taken appropriate steps to desegregate the school because no white child had chosen to go the traditionally all black school and only 15 percent of the black children attended the traditionally all white school. The parents asserted that better options were available that would affirmatively cause integration. The court reversed the decision and held that the board's freedom-of-choice plan could not be accepted as a sufficient step to effectuate a transition to a unitary system. Furthermore, the court ordered the board to adopt steps to convert promptly to a system without a segregated school. 


Does the respondent School Board's adoption of a "freedom-of-choice" plan, which allows a pupil to choose his own public school, constitutes adequate compliance with the Board's responsibility "to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis”?




In determining whether respondent School Board met that command by adopting its "freedom-of-choice" plan, it is relevant that this first step did not come until some 11 years after Brown I was decided and 10 years after Brown II directed the making of a "prompt and reasonable start." This deliberate perpetuation of the unconstitutional dual system can only have compounded the harm of such a system. Such delays are no longer tolerable, for "the governing constitutional principles no longer bear the imprint of newly enunciated doctrine.".  Moreover, a plan that at this late date fails to provide meaningful assurance of prompt and effective disestablishment of a dual system is also intolerable. "The time for mere 'deliberate speed' has run out," Griffin v. County School Board, 377 U.S. 218, 234; "the context in which we must interpret and apply this language [of Brown II] to plans for desegregation has been significantly altered.". The burden on a school board today is to come forward with a plan that promises realistically to work, and promises realistically to work now.

The "freedom-of-choice" plan could not be accepted as a sufficient step to effectuate the transition to a unitary system, where, in the period of operation of the plan, not a single white child had chosen to attend the Negro school, and, although a number of Negro children had enrolled in the white school, 85 percent of the Negro children in the system still attended the Negro school.

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