Green v. County School Board of New Kent County

Green v. County School Board of New Kent County

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Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430 (1968) was an important United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 case dealing with the freedom of choice
Freedom of Choice (US school desegregation)
Freedom of Choice was the name for a number of plans developed in the US during 1965-70, aimed at the integration of schools in states that had a segregated educational system.- The Plans :...

 plans created to comply with the mandate in Brown II. The Court held that New Kent County's freedom of choice plan did not constitute adequate compliance with the school board's responsibility to determine a system of admission to public schools on a non-racial basis. The Supreme Court mandated that the school board must formulate new plans and steps towards realistically converting to a desegregated system.

Legal background

In Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 , was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which...

in 1954 the Warren Court ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional. One year later, in Brown II, enforcement of this principle was given to district courts, ordering that they take the necessary steps to make admittance to public schools nondiscriminatory "with all deliberate speed." The term "all deliberate speed" did little to speed up the school board's plan for integration. Circuit Judge John J. Parker led many in the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 in interpreting Brown as a charge not to segregate, but not an order to integrate. In 1963 the Court ruled in McNeese v. Board of Education and Goss v. Board of Education in favor of integration, and showed impatience with efforts to end segregation.

Factual background

New Kent County
New Kent County, Virginia
At the 2000 census, there were 13,462 people, 4,925 households and 3,895 families residing in the county. The population density was 64 per square mile . There were 5,203 housing units at an average density of 25 per square mile...

 is a rural county in Eastern Virginia. About one-half of its population of some 4,500 residents were black. There was no residential segregation
Residential Segregation
Residential segregation is the physical separation of cultural groups based on residence and housing, or a form of segregation that "sorts population groups into various neighborhood contexts and shapes the living environment at the neighborhood level."...

 in the county. The school system had only two combined elementary and high schools, one for whites, one for blacks. The 21 school buses traveled overlapping routes throughout the county. The segregated system was initially established and maintained under the state mandated racial segregation in public education. The School Board continued the segregated operation of the system after the Brown decisions, on the authority of several statutes enacted by Virginia in resistance to those decisions. Some of these statutes were held to be unconstitutional. One statute, the Pupil Placement Act, not repealed until 1966, divested local boards of authority to assign children to particular schools and placed that authority in a State Pupil Placement Board. Under that Act, children were each year automatically reassigned to the school previously attended unless, upon their application, the State Board assigned them to another school; students seeking enrollment for the first time were also assigned at the discretion of the State Board. White families almost uniformly chose the white-identified school, and blacks almost uniformly chose the black-identified school. To September 1964, no pupil had applied for admission to another school under this statute.

Green before the Supreme Court

This case was argued along with Raney v. Board of Education of Gould School District
Gould School District
The Gould School District was a school district that operated public schools in Gould, Arkansas. Its territory is now a part of the Dumas School District.-History:...

and Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of Jackson, Tenn. In the last one, the plan in question was called free transfer.

Samuel W. Tucker argued the case for the petitioners, Frederick Gray for the Board. Louis Claiborne, represented the federal government. While the Court did not rule that "freedom of choice" plans were always unconstitutional, it did note that they tended to be ineffective at desegregating a school system, and held that in New Kent County's case the freedom-of-choice plan violated the Constitution.

The decision led to the search for other options, such as zoning, for the placement of students.

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