Columbus Board of Education v. Penick 443 U.S. 449 (1979) Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman 433 U.S. 406 (1977); 443 U.S. 526 (1979)

AuthorKenneth L. Karst

Page 446

These cases demonstrated the artificiality of the DE FACTO / DE JURE distinction in school DESEGREGATION litigation. Both cases arose in cities in Ohio, where racially segregated schools had not been prescribed by law since 1888. In both, however, blacks charged another form of de jure segregation: intentional acts by school boards aimed at promoting SEGREGATION.

When the Dayton case first reached the Supreme Court, a related doctrinal development was still a fresh memory. WASHINGTON V. DAVIS (1976) had held that RACIAL DISCRIMINATION was not to be inferred from the fact that governmental action had a racially disproportionate impact; rather the test was whether such an impact was intended by the legislative body or other officials whose conduct was challenged. (See LEGISLATION.) Dayton I in 1977 applied this reasoning to school segregation, emphasizing that a constitutional violation was to be found only in cases of established segregative intent. The Court remanded the case for more specific findings on the question of intent, and said that any remedy must be tailored to the scope of the segregation caused by any specific constitutional violations.

Many observers took Dayton I to portend the undermining of KEYES V. SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 (1973). In Keyes the Court had held that, once a significant degree of de jure segregation was established, systemwide desegregation remedies (including SCHOOL BUSING) were appropriate unless the school board showed that any remaining racially separate schools were the product of something other than the board's segregative intent. When the case returned to the Supreme Court two years later, these predictions were confounded.

Dayton II came to the Court along with the Columbus case, and they were decided together. Columbus, decided by a 7?2 vote, provided the main opinions. Writing for a majority of five, Justice BYRON R. WHITE applied the Keyes presumptions approach so vigorously that the dissenters remarked that the de factode jure distinction had been drained of most of its meaning. None of the Justices disputed the finding that in 1954?1955, when BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION was decided, the Columbus school board had deliberately drawn boundary lines and selected school sites to maintain racial segregation in a number of schools. What divided the Court was the question of inferences to be drawn from these undisputed facts.

Justice White reasoned that this de jure segregation...

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