Stout v. Jefferson Cty Bd Ed
SUPPLEMENTAL MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 5/9/2017. (KAM)
2017 May-09 PM 01:47
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LINDA STOUT, et al.,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
JEFFERSON COUNTY BOARD OF )
GARDENDALE CITY BOARD OF
Case No.: 2:65-cv-00396-MHH
SUPPLEMENTAL MEMORANDUM OPINION
The private plaintiffs have asked the Court to reconsider the remedy that the
Court set out in its April 24, 2017 Memorandum Opinion in this case. Based on
arguments that the plaintiffs present in support of their motion to reconsider, the
Court concludes that it may not have adequately explained the rationale for the
remedy. The Court thanks the private plaintiffs for giving the Court an opportunity
to try to bring greater clarity to its decision. In this supplement to the April 24,
2017 opinion, the Court states in greater detail the reasons for the remedy, tying
aspects of the remedy to the legal analysis that appears in pages 137-180 of the
April 24 opinion. The Court then explains why the plaintiffs’ arguments in support
of their motion for reconsideration do not persuade the Court.
In a nutshell, under the particular circumstances of this case and on the
record that the parties presented to the Court, the Court concluded that the
Gardendale Board of Education committed an independent constitutional violation
in which the Jefferson County Board of Education played no role. The Court also
found that with respect to the Gardendale zone and the families from North
Smithfield who are part of the Gardendale zone, the Jefferson County Board of
Education has followed the student assignment and facility requirements in the
1971 desegregation order in good faith.
Given these findings, the Court had to fashion an equitable remedy that
allows Jefferson County to continue its efforts to fully comply with the 1971
desegregation order while constraining Gardendale and compelling the Gardendale
Board of Education to comply with the Fourteenth Amendment. To accomplish
these competing obligations, the Court decided to allow the Gardendale Board to
separate partially from Jefferson County under a new desegregation order that is
tailored specifically to the Gardendale Board’s constitutional violation.
remedy provides to the victims of racially discriminatory conduct and to the non2
culpable Jefferson County Board of Education and the 33,000 non-Gardendale
students whom the Board serves the greatest level of protection that the Court
believes is available under the current state of the law by securing for the Jefferson
County Board the tools of desegregation that the Jefferson County Board has
successfully implemented and providing to the families in North Smithfield the
flexibility to choose the public schools that they believe will best serve their
The practical result may appear counter-intuitive, and the remedy admittedly
is not ideal. But as the Court stated in the April 24 opinion, this situation is
complex, and there are no ideal remedies. Of the available remedial options, the
Court selected the option that it believes has the greatest ability to address all of the
The Court believes that the remedy urged by the private
plaintiffs—outright denial of Gardendale’s motion to separate—though warranted
and effective in the early stages of this desegregation order’s implementation,
under the particular circumstances now presented, likely would produce a shortlived victory that ultimately would do more harm than good to Jefferson County’s
efforts to comply with the Fourteenth Amendment in the final stages of federal
A. The Court’s Equitable Remedy
The Court found that the private plaintiffs and the Department of Justice
established that race motivated separation organizers and some Gardendale
residents who support the formation of a municipal school district for the City of
Gardendale. Given these findings, the private plaintiffs argue that the Court should
dissolve the Gardendale Board and eliminate the municipal school system.
Had the Court recently entered a desegregation decree in this case, that
would be the obvious and easy solution. Under those circumstances, the Court
would know that the county, including Gardendale, would be subject to federal
supervision for years, and the Court would have the ability to monitor the entire
county, including Gardendale, for an extended period of time.
That is not the case here. Here, the desegregation order governing the
Jefferson County Board of Education is 45 years old, and federal oversight of the
Jefferson County Board of Education may be nearing an end, at least with respect
to student assignments and facilities, two of the Green desegregation factors. To
enable it to monitor student assignments (particularly zoning and interdistrict
transfers) in the public schools in Gardendale in the years ahead and to make sure
that Jefferson County retains the benefit of the Gardendale high school facility that
Jefferson County built to facilitate desegregation, the Court decided to place the
Gardendale Board under a new desegregation order that creates a fresh start for
federal supervision of all aspects of the public schools in Gardendale.
Several legal principles converge to produce this result. The first concerns
the nature of the remedy. The remedy is equitable. Equity requires the balancing
of the interests of all of the parties who are affected by the remedy. While the
interests of the victims weigh heavily in the analysis, the Court also must consider
the interests of others, including bystanders, and the Court must choose from
alternative options the remedy that the Court believes best fulfills the purposes of
this desegregation litigation. (See Doc. 1141, pp. 22-27; 40-43) (discussing Stout
II and Swann). Here, the bystanders are the 33,000 public school students in the
Jefferson County district who live outside of Gardendale’s municipal boundaries
(and their parents) and the students who reside in the City of Gardendale whose
parents supported separation for reasons that have nothing to do with race (some
subset of the 2,250 public school students who reside within the City of
Gardendale). (Doc. 1141, pp. 139 n. 79, 182-83). An equitable remedy must
balance “individual and collective interests” and must be “reasonable, feasible and
workable.” Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 402 U.S. 1, 16, 31
(1971) (discussed in Doc. 1141 at p. 23).
The 33,000 students who live outside of Gardendale’s municipal limits may
be nearing the end of federal supervision of student assignments and facilities. As
the Court explained in its opinion, the Supreme Court has held that a federal
court’s “‘end purpose’ in a public school desegregation case is ‘to remedy the
[constitutional] violation and, in addition, to restore [to] state and local authorities’
the control of their public schools.” (Doc. 1141, pp. 54-55) (quoting Freeman v.
Pitts, 503 U.S. 467, 489 (1992)). “Returning schools to the control of local
authorities at the earliest practicable date is essential to restore [local authorities’]
true accountability in our governmental system.’” Freeman, 503 U.S. at 490
(quoted in Doc. 1141, p. 55). The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals similarly has
instructed the district courts in this circuit that “complete return to local control of
school systems is the ultimate goal of all judicial supervision because [f]rom the
very first, federal supervision of local school systems was intended as a temporary
measure to remedy past discrimination, and desegregation decrees are not intended
to operate in perpetuity.” (Doc. 1141, p. 61) (quoting N.A.A.C.P., Jacksonville
Branch v. Duval Cty. Sch., 273 F.3d 960, 967 (11th Cir. 2001)) (internal quotation
In the Eleventh Circuit, a district court must release a school district from
federal supervision when “a formerly dual school system” proves “that it has (1)
complied in good faith with the desegregation decree, and (2) eliminated the
vestiges of prior de jure segregation to the extent practicable.” (Doc. 1141, p. 60)
(quoting Duval County, 273 F.2d at 966). The system also must demonstrate that
the termination of federal court oversight will not “result in the dismantlement of
the [desegregation plan] or any affirmative action by the [school board] to
undermine the unitary system.” Bd. of Educ. of Oklahoma City Pub. Sch. v.
Dowell, 498 U.S. 237, 241 (1991) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoted in
Doc. 1141, p. 50).
In Freeman, the United States Supreme Court held that a district court may
consider a school district’s request to be released from federal supervision on a
gradual basis. Freeman, 503 U.S. at 490-92. The Supreme Court stated:
We hold that, in the course of supervising desegregation plans, federal
courts have the authority to relinquish supervision and control of
school districts in incremental stages, before full compliance has been
achieved in every area of school operations. While retaining
jurisdiction over the case, the court may determine that it will not
order further remedies in areas where the school district is in
compliance with the decree. That is to say, upon a finding that a
school system subject to a court-supervised desegregation plan is in
compliance in some but not all areas, the court in appropriate cases
may return control to the school system in those areas where
compliance has been achieved, limiting further judicial supervision to
operations that are not yet in full compliance with the court decree. In
particular, the district court may determine that it will not order
further remedies in the area of student assignments where racial
imbalance is not traceable, in a proximate way, to constitutional
A court’s discretion to order the incremental withdrawal of its
supervision in a school desegregation case must be exercised in a
manner consistent with the purposes and objectives of its equitable
power. Among the factors which must inform the sound discretion of
the court in ordering partial withdrawal are the following: whether
there has been full and satisfactory compliance with the decree in
those aspects of the system where supervision is to be withdrawn;
whether retention of judicial control is necessary or practicable to
achieve compliance with the decree in other facets of the school
system; and whether the school district has demonstrated, to the
public and to the parents and students of the once disfavored race, its
good-faith commitment to the whole of the court’s decree and to those
provisions of the law and the Constitution that were the predicate for
judicial intervention in the first instance.
In considering these factors, a court should give particular attention to
the school system’s record of compliance. A school system is better
positioned to demonstrate its good-faith commitment to a
constitutional course of action when its policies form a consistent
pattern of lawful conduct directed to eliminating earlier violations.
And, with the passage of time, the degree to which racial imbalances
continue to represent vestiges of a constitutional violation may
diminish, and the practicability and efficacy of various remedies can
be evaluated with more precision.
These are the premises that guided our formulation in Dowell of the
duties of a district court during the final phases of a desegregation
case: “The District Court should address itself to whether the Board
had complied in good faith with the desegregation decree since it was
entered, and whether the vestiges of past discrimination had been
eliminated to the extent practicable.” 498 U.S., at 249–250, 111 S.Ct.,
Freeman, 503 U.S. at 490-92.
In the report that it filed with the Court in February 2015, the Jefferson
County Board of Education stated that it was “hopeful that, after comprehensive
review of the district and its schools, the parties and the Court will agree that the
district has achieved unitary status as to student assignment.” (Doc. 998, p. 9).
Jefferson County acknowledged that “a few of [its] schools have either a largely all
white student population (such as those in the Corner attendance zone) or a largely
all African American student population (such as those in the Center [P]oint
attendance zone)” but asserted that “most of the schools fall somewhere in the
middle.” (Doc. 998, p. 8).
The student assignment statistics for the Jefferson County district for the
2015-16 school year reflect that a number of schools have well-integrated student
bodies, and a number of schools have student bodies that are predominantly white
or predominantly black. (See Doc. 1129-2). The Eleventh Circuit has held:
[i]f a school board can prove that . . . factors [which are not the result
of segregation] have substantially caused current racial imbalances
in its schools, it overcomes the presumption that segregative intent is
the cause, and there is no constitutional violation. Where there is
no constitutional violation, a school board is under no duty to
remedy racial imbalances.
Duval County, 273 F.3d at 966 (quoted in Doc. 1141, p. 61). In addition, “even
when remedying the effects of de jure segregation, the Constitution does not
require rigid racial ratios.” Id. at 967 (quoted in Doc. 1141, p. 61).
Thus, if the Jefferson County Board is able to prove that the racial
imbalances in some of the schools in the district are not the consequence of
segregative intent, then the Jefferson County Board will have no obligation to
remedy those imbalances.
And if Jefferson County also proves that it has
complied in good faith with the desegregation order’s provisions regarding student
assignments and that it will continue to try to fulfill the aims of the desegregation
order to the best of its ability even after the Court dissolves the order, then the
Court must determine whether it is appropriate to release Jefferson County from
federal supervision of student assignments.
The record indicates that the Jefferson County Board has acted in good faith
with respect to zoning and racial desegregation transfers in the Gardendale zone.
The Court still has to examine whether the Jefferson County Board has complied in
good faith with its zoning and desegregation transfer obligations throughout the
entire district. The Court also must determine whether termination of supervision
of student assignments would adversely impact Jefferson County’s ability to fulfill
its obligations with respect to other Green factors. The Jefferson County Board
believes that at the end of this analysis, the parties and the Court will agree that the
county “has achieved unitary status as to student assignment.” In fashioning a
remedy, the Court must be cognizant of that possibility.
With respect to facilities, in its 2015 report, the Jefferson County Board
stated that although there “are still facility-related needs in the Jefferson County
system,” the Board’s “most recent capital improvement initiative, made possible
by a bond issue by the Jefferson County Commission, addressed most of the
[county’s] critical needs and made it possible to provide students in all
communities with the benefit of attending modern, first class facilities.” (Doc.
998, pp. 13-14). The Jefferson County Board stated that under the Court’s
supervision, “[n]ew high schools were constructed or major renovations were
undertaken in almost every zone that did not then have a modern high school.”
The Board asserted that it “is hopeful that partial unitary status might be
appropriate” as to those facilities. (Doc. 998, p. 14).
Jefferson County’s potential ability to obtain a release from federal
supervision of student assignments and facilities in the near future weighed heavily
in the Court’s decision. If the Court were simply to deny Gardendale’s motion to
separate and the schools in the Gardendale zone were to remain under the control
of the Jefferson County Board, and if, in the next year or two, the Jefferson County
Board were able to prove that it is entitled under the law to a termination of
supervision as to student assignments and high school facilities, then the Court
would relinquish control over all zoning, racial desegregation transfers, and high
school facilities in the Jefferson County system, including the Gardendale zone. If
the Jefferson County Board is entitled under the law to be released from
supervision of student assignments and high school facilities, then under equitable
principles, the Court cannot withhold that relief and essentially punish the
Jefferson County Board and the tens of thousands of families to whom the
Jefferson County Board is responsible for a constitutional violation committed by
some citizens in Gardendale. Equity will not permit that result.
Thus, if the Court were to deny Gardendale’s motion to separate and then
release Jefferson County from supervision of students assignments and facilities in
one or two years, then zoning, student transfers, and the high school in the
Gardendale feeder pattern would be vulnerable again. The citizens of Gardendale
who have tried to separate from Jefferson County for years would have the ability
under Alabama law to try once again to take over the public schools in the City of
Gardendale, and this time, there would be no federal desegregation order to protect
zoning, interdistrict transfers, and the Gardendale high school facility.
struggle between the Jefferson County district and the Gardendale district would
resume, and, under the circumstances of this case, Alabama law would allow the
citizens of Gardendale to take free of charge a $50 million high school facility that
the Jefferson County Board built for all of the students in Jefferson County to
facilitate desegregation of the district’s high schools. Again, the Court currently
does not have before it information that allows it to determine just how close
Jefferson County may be to the end of supervision of student assignments and
facilities, but in fashioning an equitable remedy, the Court must take into account
the realistic possibility that federal supervision of the Jefferson County Board with
respect to zoning, transfers, and high school facilities may end within the next few
As the Jefferson County Board acknowledged in its 2015 report, some of its facilities still need
improvement. Fultondale High School is an example of a facility in need of improvement. As
the Court explained in its decision, resolution of the issue of control over the Gardendale High
School facility may give the Jefferson County Board an opportunity to address the facilities issue
relating to Fultondale High School. (See Doc. 1141, pp. 172-73; see also pp. 19-20 below).
The Court decided that the better option is to allow Gardendale to operate
the two elementary schools in the City of Gardendale and to place the Gardendale
Board under a new, separate desegregation order tailored to the misconduct that
warrants federal oversight. (Doc. 1141, pp. 185-86). The Court may impose a
desegregation order only on a school board; remedial orders in public school
desegregation cases address official action.
(See Doc. 1141, p. 55) (quoting
Freeman, 503 U.S. at 495). 2 As the Court stated in its opinion, the new 2017
Gardendale desegregation order will require the Gardendale Board to redraw the
boundaries for the two elementary schools and will include interdistrict transfer
provisions. (Doc. 1141, pp. 185-86). In addition, if Gardendale operates those two
schools in good faith for three years, then Gardendale may renew its motion for
leave to operate a K-12 district. (Doc. 1141, p. 186). If the Court were to grant
that motion based on the record that the Gardendale Board makes between now
and then, then the Gardendale Board would have to raise tens of millions of dollars
either to pay Jefferson County for the current Gardendale High School facility or to
The Court recognizes that the evidence of racial motivation in this case demonstrates that the
line between private action, for which there is no constitutional remedy in public school
desegregation cases, and official action, for which there is a legal remedy, is far from clear;
however, the Supreme Court’s rule in this regard is settled: “Where resegregation is a product
not of state action but of private choices, it does not have constitutional implications.” Freeman,
503 U.S. at 495.
build its own high school facility. 3 The Court anticipates that if, in three years, it
were to grant a renewed motion for a K-12 district for the City of Gardendale, then
the Court would supervise that district for a minimum of five years, meaning that
the Gardendale district would be under federal supervision through at least the
2024-25 academic year. There is a reasonable possibility that federal supervision
of the Jefferson County Board, at least with respect to student assignments, will
end years before then. Borrowing the words of the Gardendale Board’s motion to
separate, the Gardendale district will be under the new 2017 desegregation order
for “the indefinite future,” creating for the citizens of Gardendale the very federal
oversight that they had hoped to avoid by separating from Jefferson County. That
is an equitable result.
In balancing the equities, the Court determined that these consequences are
feasible, fair, and reasonable.
The Court has not set the amount of the payment yet because if the Court eventually approves a
K-12 district in Gardendale, the Gardendale Board may decide to build its own high school. The
Court has ordered the parties to develop a facilities plan because the Jefferson County Board and
the Gardendale Board must examine their options and develop plans for a potential complete
separation. The availability of those plans does not mean that a K-12 Gardendale district is a
forgone conclusion. The Court is simply mindful of the amount of time that may be needed to
address each district’s facilities needs.
B. The Plaintiffs’ Motion to Reconsider
The private plaintiffs challenge the feasibility and efficacy of the equitable
remedy and offer a number of arguments to support their contentions. The Court
considers each argument in turn.
1. Feasibility of the Equitable Remedy
The private plaintiffs argue that the equitable remedy that the Court has
fashioned is unworkable and will have a negative impact on Jefferson County’s
ability to fulfill its obligations under the 1971 desegregation order. The plaintiffs
disagree with the Court’s analysis of the practical considerations that prompted the
Court to allow a partial separation.
The plaintiffs acknowledge that the Court found that the Gardendale district
“violated the Equal Protection Clause anew” because the words and actions
associated with Gardendale’s separation effort sent a message of inferiority to
black public school students, particularly those in North Smithfield and Center
Point. (Doc. 1151, p. 18; see also Doc. 1141, pp. 175-80). The plaintiffs contend
that “[t]he Court’s remedy was obligated to address that identified constitutional
violation.” (Doc. 1151, p. 18).
That is precisely what the Court has done. The Court has ordered that the
Gardendale District be placed under a brand new desegregation order—not a 45year-old order that Supreme Court precedent requires the Court to dissolve “at the
earliest practicable date.” Freeman, 503 U.S. at 490. Instead, the Gardendale
Board will operate under a brand new desegregation order that is tailored to the
constitutional violation in this case. The private plaintiffs believe that outright
denial of Gardendale’s motion to separate is the only proper remedy, and they
reject each of the practical considerations that caused the Court to decide to fashion
a new desegregation order. The Court is not persuaded by the private plaintiffs’
arguments concerning those practical considerations.
a. The Victims of Gardendale’s Constitutional Violation
With respect to the harm to black students from North Smithfield and other
areas outside of the City of Gardendale whom some of the residents of Gardendale
wanted to exclude from their school district, the Court recognized in the April 24
opinion that as a practical matter, it does not have a tool available that will enable
it to erase the message of inferiority conveyed by the conduct of the Gardendale
Board and completely prevent children in North Smithfield and Center Point from
experiencing that message again in the years ahead. If the Court were to deny
separation outright, and the schools in the Gardendale zone were to remain under
the control of the Jefferson County Board, then the students from North Smithfield
would likely experience resentment from the Gardendale citizens who lost their
ability under Alabama law to separate. (Doc. 1141, pp. 181-82). 4 The message
would be even louder from the families who sell their homes and leave Gardendale
because they cannot have the municipal school system that they want. Emails that
the Court received from Gardendale residents after the bench trial indicate that
Gardendale residents already have made plans to move if the Gardendale Board
cannot proceed with its plan to separate. (Doc. 1143-1, pp. 23-24; Doc. 1147-1, p.
2). The Court does not have the power under the law to prevent families from
leaving Gardendale and moving to other municipal districts in Jefferson County.
Under these circumstances, the Court reasoned that it would be unfair to
require students from North Smithfield to attend Bragg Middle School or
Gardendale High School, the schools to which they currently are zoned.
Therefore, the Court’s remedy allows parents from North Smithfield to select the
public school that they believe is best for their children. Under the Court’s April
24 order, for the 2017-18 school year, parents and students in North Smithfield
may select their top two preferences for schools in the Jefferson County district,
and Jefferson County must place the students in one of those two schools and
provide transportation to them.
(Doc. 1141, p. 187). This is true even for
elementary school students who live in North Smithfield, even though there has
No party in this case challenged the constitutionality of the provision of Alabama law that
authorizes municipal separations, so the Court does not have a record that would enable it to
examine this issue.
been no constitutional violation with respect to the elementary school for which
they currently are zoned. (Doc. 1141, p. 187 n. 94). There are no restrictions on
Unlike limits on majority-to-minority transfers in the 1971
desegregation order, there is no requirement that the school that a parent in North
Smithfield selects improves the racial balance in the sending or receiving school.
And unlike the majority-to-minority transfer provision in the 1971 desegregation
order, the Court’s remedy requires the Jefferson County Board of Education to
make space available for children from North Smithfield in one of the two schools
that their parents select.
The order also provides that parents from North
Smithfield must be part of the discussion about permanent zoning for students
from North Smithfield. (See Doc. 1141, p. 188).
The plaintiffs argue that this remedy is not adequate. They assert:
At least now, Black residents of North Smithfield Manor have a voice
on the [Jefferson County Board of Education], and its Superintendent
visits their community and addresses their concerns. As the Court has
noted, North Smithfield parents on the Gardendale School Board will
have no voice. The class members are rightly frustrated and
concerned that, in three years, Gardendale High School will either (1)
not be available to them or (2) be available, but operated by the
Gardendale Board of Education in which they have no representative
voice and no expectations of fair treatment.
(Doc. 1151, pp. 9-10). 5 This argument overlooks a number of aspects of the
Under the Court’s remedy, students from the community of North Smithfield
will never have to attend a school administered by the Gardendale Board of
Using the interdistrict transfer provision that will appear in the
Gardendale desegregation order, parents of students from North Smithfield may
choose to send their children to a school that the Gardendale Board of Education
operates, but they never will be zoned for a school that the Gardendale Board of
Education operates. The Jefferson County Board of Education will operate Bragg
Middle School and Gardendale High School for at least the next three years. In
three years, if the Gardendale Board files a renewed motion to operate a middle
school and a high school, and the Court grants the motion, then the Gardendale
Board will have to pay the Jefferson County Board for the Gardendale High School
facility, supplying funds for Jefferson County to build a new high school facility,
one that logically would serve students from Fultondale, Mount Olive, the City of
Graysville, the community of Brookside, and the community of North Smithfield.
Alternatively, if the Gardendale Board files a renewed motion to operate a middle
school and a high school, and the Court grants the motion, then the Gardendale
The Court assumes that the plaintiffs’ reference to “North Smithfield parents on the Gardendale
Board” is a mistake. (Doc. 1151, p. 9). Under Alabama law, there will be no parents from North
Smithfield on the Gardendale Board. (Doc. 1141, pp. 98, 120).
Board will have to build its own high school facility. That would leave the current
Gardendale High School facility for students from Fultondale, Mount Olive, the
City of Graysville, the community of Brookside, and the community of North
Either way, if parents from North Smithfield elect to have their community
zoned for the Jefferson County high school feeder pattern that is geographically
closest to the schools in the current Gardendale feeder pattern, then students from
North Smithfield will have the opportunity to attend a new state-of-the-art high
school facility that houses a desegregated student population. If parents from
North Smithfield urge the Court to zone the North Smithfield community
permanently for another feeder pattern like the Mortimer Jordan feeder pattern or
the Corner feeder pattern, then students from North Smithfield still will attend a
state-of-the-art facility, and they will improve the diversity of the student
populations in either feeder pattern, helping Jefferson County to fulfill its
constitutional obligation to maintain, to the best of its ability, desegregated
schools, even after the conclusion of federal oversight of student assignments.
That is an equitable remedy, and that remedy advances Jefferson County’s ability
to comply with the Fourteenth Amendment.
b. The 33,000 Non-Gardendale Jefferson County Students
With respect to the interests of the 33,000 non-Gardendale students in the
Jefferson County school system and the Court’s effort to balance their interests
with the interests of the 2,250 students in Gardendale, the plaintiffs argue that any
interests that non-Gardendale students have “must give way to Jefferson County’s
constitutional obligation to desegregate.” (Doc. 1151, p. 10). In addition, the
plaintiffs contend that the Court’s resolution of the dispute concerning the
Gardendale High School facility “hinders [Jefferson County’s] ability to
appropriately address facilities and student assignment in a comprehensive
desegregation plan” because the Court’s plan for the high school facility “delays
relief for the Fultondale students” who currently go to school in a “dilapidated
vestige of the former dual-system” and “who have already waited far too long for
an equitable education experience.” (Doc. 1151, pp. 10-11).
As for Jefferson County’s obligation to desegregate, the evidence that the
parties presented at trial indicates that in the past few years, Jefferson County has
made strides toward fulfilling its obligations under the 1971 desegregation order.
The private plaintiffs called witnesses at trial who testified that:
• Jefferson County has complied with its obligation to send students from the
non-contiguous community of North Smithfield to Fultondale Elementary
School, Bragg Middle School, and Gardendale High School. (Doc. 1128,
pp. 6, 28, 39, 42-43).
• Jefferson County has been responsive to the interests of the parents in North
Smithfield and has provided a strong education to students from North
Smithfield. (Doc. 1128, pp. 7, 17-18, 33-34, 43, 52).
• Jefferson County has created a system of magnet vocational programs that
facilitate desegregation. (Doc. 1127, pp. 136-144; 149, discussed in Doc.
1141 at p. 70)
• The Jefferson County Board hired a superintendent who in his more than 20
years of leadership in various schools systems has intentionally assembled
diverse staffs by making diverse hiring a priority. (Doc. 1127, pp. 101-103).
• Jefferson County has appointed a desegregation administrator. (See Doc.
1127, pp. 105-106, 229).
• One of the first priorities for the desegregation administrator will be
developing a recruitment and hiring plan to ensure consistency in the
employment process and increase diversity in faculty and staff. (Doc. 1127,
• There are very few barriers (perhaps even none) to parents’ access to the
Jefferson County central office to address concerns. (Doc. 1127, p. 108).
• Jefferson County is working to ensure comparable curriculum offerings
across schools, and if a specialized program does not exist in one school,
then the district allows students to go to a school where those opportunities
are offered. (Doc. 1127, p. 116).
• Jefferson County has a top-notch IB high school, and the district recently
started a middle school IB program. (Doc. 1124, p. 225; Doc. 1127, pp. 116;
Doc. 1131-39, p. 36, discussed in Doc. 1141, p. 80, n. 36).
• Jefferson County is in the process of completing a district-wide facilities
assessment to address aging school buildings. (Doc. 1127, pp. 119-20).
• Jefferson County already is “making great strides to try and eliminate some
of the discipline issues” in the county, and the desegregation administrator
has plans to address racial disparities in discipline on a school-by-school
basis. (Doc. 1127, pp. 232-34).
Jefferson County’s recent annual reports to the Court reveal that Jefferson County
has approved dozens of majority-to-minority transfers in each academic year, and
Jefferson County has provided transportation for all of those transfer students.
(Docs. 961-1, 966-3, 975-3, 978-10, 984-4, 999-10, 1033-4, 1106-10; see Doc.
1141, p. 142).
All of these steps are evidence of good faith and are examples of conduct
that paves the way for the Jefferson County Board’s release from federal
supervision. The parties presented no evidence that indicates that Gardendale’s
separation will impede these areas of progress that the Jefferson County Board has
made toward fulfilling its obligations under the 1971 desegregation order.
The April 24, 2017 opinion identifies two ways in which Gardendale’s
December 2015 plan of separation would harm Jefferson County’s desegregation
efforts. Under Gardendale’s plan, students who were eliminated from schools in
the Gardendale zone would attend schools with student populations that are much
less racially diverse than the current student populations of the schools in the
Gardendale zone. In addition, Jefferson County would lose the new $50 million
high school facility in Gardendale, and Jefferson County would not be
compensated for the loss. (Doc. 1141, pp. 69, 72, 171-72).
The April 24 opinion scrapped Gardendale’s separation plan. That plan is
defunct. As stated above, if the Court eventually allows Gardendale to operate its
own high school, then Gardendale will have to pay for the Gardendale high school
facility or build its own, leaving the current $50 million facility in the Jefferson
County system. Although the Court did not explicitly order it (because the Court
does not know yet whether the Gardendale Board will operate a high school in the
years ahead and because the Court will consult with counsel for all of the parties
before ordering this), the Court unambiguously signaled that it envisions the
creation of a new middle and high school zone comprised of students from
Fultondale, Mount Olive, the City of Graysville, the community of Brookside, and
the community of North Smithfield. (Doc. 1141, pp. 172-73, 188). As the Court
stated, the student population of that middle and high school zone would be more
diverse than the current student populations of Bragg Middle School and
Gardendale High School. Thus, the new zone that the Court envisions would
advance, not inhibit, Jefferson County’s ability to fulfill its obligations under the
1971 desegregation order.
Under the law, the 33,000 students in Jefferson County who did not
contribute to the constitutional violation by the Gardendale Board have the right to
continue to press forward to the end of federal supervision. As the Court pointed
out in its April 24 opinion, the majority in Wright recognized that: “[d]irect control
over decisions vitally affecting the education of one’s children is a need that is
strongly felt in our society . . . .” Wright v. Council of City of Emporia, 407 U.S.
451, 460 (1972) (quoted in Doc. 1141, p. 39). In fashioning an equitable remedy,
the Court must balance the interests of those who are near the finish line against
those who are just beginning the task of proving their willingness to abide by the
c. Gardendale Citizens who Lack Racial Motivation
With regard to the Court’s consideration of the fact that the record
demonstrates that some Gardendale citizens support separation for reasons that
have nothing to do with race (Doc. 1141, p. 183), the private plaintiffs argue that
“the benign motives of some Gardendale citizens cannot, in any way, cure or
counterbalance the impermissible effects of the proposed separation.” (Doc. 1151,
p. 12). If the record were different from the record before the Court, the Court
might agree. But on the record in this case, the Court must respectfully disagree
because the residents whom the Court had in mind are African-American.
Dr. Porterfield Miller, a former teacher and administrator in the Jefferson
County school system, supports Gardendale’s separation effort. She is AfricanAmerican.
(Doc. 1141, p. 99).
At trial, she testified that even though the
Gardendale City Council did not select her to serve on the Gardendale Board of
Education, and even though she feels that the Gardendale City Council’s decision
was racially motivated, she still supports Gardendale’s effort to operate a
municipal school system. (Doc. 1125, pp. 14, 30-32).
Two Gardendale citizens who spoke in favor of separation at the conclusion
of the bench trial are African-American. (Doc. 1128, pp. 188-193). One of those
citizens stated that he and his wife enrolled the oldest of their three children in
private school because they are not satisfied with the education available to their
daughter in the Jefferson County system. This citizen and his wife would like to
send their children to public school, and they support a municipal school system in
Gardendale. The citizen stated that he and his wife:
made the decision early on to send [their daughter] to private school
for elementary education strictly because of, when we look at
education, we look at the opportunities that the students have and also
we look at test scores. And we did not feel that Jefferson County was
doing an adequate job of giving her quality education.
(Doc. 1128, p. 188). He explained that his wife had visited schools in the Jefferson
County district and schools in municipal districts, and “she saw the disparity then
in the education, the level of education that the students were getting.” (Doc.
1128, p. 189).
As far as the test results, we’ve monitored those. We’ve looked at
those. Things that stand out for us, again, we have one daughter that’s
in school right now that’s very good in math and science. And the
recent test scores that were released from the ACT Aspire test show
that for grades three through ten, Jefferson County was at 50 percent
or below for students that were meeting or exceeding their grade
level; whereas all of the smaller school districts -- Mountain Brook,
Vestavia, Trussville, Homewood and Hoover -- were all well above
And we just feel that if Gardendale was given an opportunity to start
their own system, then we could do better because it’s a smaller
system, because we would have more local control over it.
As many of the other parents have stated, we like Gardendale. We’ve
enjoyed being there. Again, we’ve been there ten years. My oldest
daughter, it’s the only home she’s ever known.
But if Gardendale is not allowed to separate, then we would have to
exercise our options because we feel that we should be able to give
her a quality education and all of the opportunities possible where we
are. And we just don’t feel that she’s getting -- that if she were in
Jefferson County that she would be given that opportunity.
(Doc. 1128, pp. 189-90). 6
The second Gardendale citizen whom the Court had in mind stated:
I stand before you today as a parent, as a father of two little girls. I’ve
got an 11 year old and an eight year old. They’re both at Gardendale
Elementary School, wonderful little girls. We love it. We love
Gardendale. We moved to Gardendale ten years ago.
The thing that really, I guess, spoke to me today is the statement of
kids would feel like outsiders. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can
speak for myself. I would do everything in my power, if Gardendale
is allowed to break away from Jefferson County, to make sure that no
The transcript from the bench trial does not indicate that this citizen is African-American, but
the Court made handwritten notes at trial, and those notes confirm that this citizen is AfricanAmerican.
student feels like an outsider. I’m very involved there in the
community. I serve there in the community. And I would do my
very, very best to make sure no child feels like an outsider.
Four things I want to say, and I’m done. Our city: We love our city.
It’s a great city. I moved there, my family and I we moved there. We
have been welcome there. I have great friends here that live in
Gardendale, that live in Mt. Olive, that live in Cullman. It’s a great
city, and they have welcomed us.
Our schools: I love Gardendale Elementary. Flat out love it. I’m
there a good amount of the time and would be there today, but I’m
here. But it’s a wonderful school.
Our future: After this trial, this is the thing that concerns me the most
about this trial. After this trial, our city has to heal. There’s been so
many things that’s been said that is not true. Does racism exist? Sure.
But if we’re making an issue where there’s not an issue, we’ve got to
heal. So I want my city to heal. I don’t know what that looks like, but
I know I would do everything in my power to make sure that my city
Our kids: I teach my girls this, racism is taught. I want my kids to be
judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
My little girls, they do not see color. As a matter of fact, both of my
little girls, their best friends are little blonde headed, blue eyed
Caucasian girls that they love to death. They don’t see color, and
neither should we.
So our goal here, my goal and my wife’s goal for our kids is to raise
them, number one, to love the Lord their God. I know that some
would not agree with me there, but that’s our goal for our kids.
And our second goal is to make sure they have great character. And
that’s my whole deal here. I just want to make sure that they have
great character and for my city to heal. Because, again, there’s be
[sic] so many things that’s been said about racism that is not there.
And the last time I checked, I’m a black guy, and I’m up and down
that city. I love that city. People there, they know me.
So, the only thing I say is it’s a great place to live. And if it wasn’t, I
would have sold my house a long time ago.
(Doc. 1128, pp. 190-93). 7
The Court recognizes that neither of the African-American parents who
spoke at trial was under oath, but the Court observed both parents and has no
question about the credibility of their statements. 8
Their statements are not
evidence, but Dr. Porterfield Miller’s testimony is, and the Court believes that it
would be remiss if it were to ignore the statements of these Gardendale citizens in
considering the proper remedy in this case. The two Gardendale parents are not in
the same position as the parents of African-American students who live outside of
the City of Gardendale, so their children are not the targets of the constitutional
violation in this case, but these African-American parents have a right to pursue
what they believe to be the best possible education for their children. 9 It is
Following the bench trial, the Court also received email messages from parents of AfricanAmerican children. Those parents support Gardendale’s separation. (Doc. 1143-1, pp. 8, 20).
And as the Court discussed in fairly great detail in the April 24 opinion, Mr. Hill, a parent from
North Smithfield, supports Gardendale’s separation. (Doc. 1141, pp. 112-14).
These statements could be reduced to admissible evidence if necessary.
In writing about the black parents who spoke at the conclusion of the bench trial, the Court
does not intend to create the inference that every white parent who spoke in favor of separation
at the conclusion of trial was motivated by race. The record demonstrates that racial bias
motivated some Gardendale citizens to support separation, but the record does not support the
inference that every parent, black or white, who supports a municipal school district is motivated
appropriate for the Court to consider the interests of these Gardendale citizens in
fashioning an equitable remedy.
d. Future Separation Efforts by Citizens of Gardendale
Finally, the plaintiffs argue that the Court should not be concerned about
future separation efforts by citizens of Gardendale if the Court denies Gardendale’s
separation motion outright because “if Gardendale seeks to separate after the
dissolution of the Stout Order, the independent constitutional violation found by
this Court will provide the necessary grounds for the Stout Plaintiff class to seek
appropriate judicial review and relief, including but not limited to enjoining the
formation of a separate Gardendale school system.” (Doc. 1151, p. 13). Perhaps,
but the Court must weigh the possibility that the plaintiff class would not succeed
in such an effort.
The plaintiffs’ argument assumes that in a few years, the situation in
Gardendale will be identical to the set of circumstances that produced the Court’s
finding that the Gardendale Board violated the Fourteenth Amendment. That is not
a safe assumption. As the Court has discussed, if the Court denies Gardendale’s
motion to separate outright, the demographics of the City of Gardendale are likely
to shift. Families with school-aged children who might stay in Gardendale could
The Court also recognizes that even if black students in Gardendale are not the direct victims of
the message of inferiority conveyed by Gardendale’s separation effort, they are impacted by the
message as are all of the children in Jefferson County regardless of their race. Messages of racial
inferiority from governmental bodies harm society as a whole.
use the next three years to position themselves to argue that whatever racial bias
existed in 2017 no longer remains. They might not succeed, but then again, they
The Court’s decision addresses and resolves the constitutional violation
now, once and for all. In considering the interests of everyone affected by the
Court’s decision, the Court took into account the fact that this litigation has taken a
toll on the entire Jefferson County district. From an economic perspective, the
Jefferson County Board of Education has had to fund the Board’s role in this
litigation. Funds used to pay attorney fees for a resumption of litigation in a few
years could be used, in the absence of renewed litigation, to pay for education
services for all of the students in Jefferson County, nearly 50% of whom are
African-American. From a desegregation perspective, the Jefferson County Board
needs certainty as it moves into what it hopes will be the final stages of federal
supervision. From a deterrence perspective, the Court’s April 24 opinion sends the
message that any community contemplating separation at the expense of Jefferson
County’s desegregation efforts will pay a high price and will have no guarantee
that the community will be able to separate. The Gardendale Board of Education
also has had to fund its role in this litigation, and all it has to show so far is
provisional approval for the operation of two elementary schools.
community perspective, the African-American father who spoke in favor of
separation was correct: Gardendale needs to heal from this dispute, and the
Jefferson County district does too. It would be unwise and unfair for the Court to
issue a decision that merely delays this dispute for another day.
2. Gardendale’s Ability to Demonstrate Good Faith During the ThreeYear Trial Period
The private plaintiffs argue that the Gardendale Board cannot establish a
sufficient record of good faith in three years to be in a position to move for
permission to operate a middle school and a high school because there are few
tools that the Gardendale Board may use to desegregate the student populations of
the elementary schools, and the Gardendale Board is unlikely to have openings that
will allow the Gardendale Board to hire more African-American teachers. (Doc.
1151, pp. 13-14).
The Court addressed these matters in its April 24 opinion. The Court
instructed the Gardendale Board to redraw the zone lines for Gardendale
Elementary and Snow Rogers. (Doc. 1141, p. 185-86). Of the students who reside
in the City of Gardendale and attended Gardendale Elementary during the 2015-16
school year, 217 were black and 649 were white. (Doc. 1129-7, p. 1). Of the
students who reside in the City of Gardendale and attended Snow Rogers during
the 2015-16 school year, seven were black and 155 were white. (Doc. 1129-7, p.
1). The decisions that the Gardendale Board makes when it redraws the zone lines
for Gardendale Elementary and Snow Rogers will influence the Court’s future
findings regarding good faith.
The Gardendale desegregation order will require interdistrict transfers.
(Doc. 1141, p. 185). In the years ahead, the Court will be able to evaluate the
interdistrict transfer policy that the Gardendale Board will have to adopt and the
extent to which the Gardendale Board has enforced that policy. The Court also
will have the ability to evaluate the extent to which transfer students feel welcome
in Gardendale’s elementary schools.
To prove good faith in that regard,
Gardendale’s superintendent will have to require training for Gardendale’s faculty
and administrators, and the superintendent will have to adopt policies that promote
a welcoming environment for transfer students.
With respect to faculty and administration, the private plaintiffs’ reference to
the requirements in the 1971 desegregation order is mistaken. As the Court has
explained, Gardendale will be operating under a new desegregation order that will
impose obligations on the Gardendale Board regarding racial diversity of faculty
and administration. The way in which Gardendale’s superintendent chooses to
fulfill those obligations will bear upon the Court’s evaluation of good faith, as will
the choices that the superintendent and the Gardendale Board make with respect to
all of the obligations that the Court will impose in the Gardendale desegregation
3. Adequacy of the Equitable Remedy
The private plaintiffs argue that the Court’s remedy is inadequate for three
reasons. The plaintiffs contend that Stout I forecloses any remedy other than
outright denial of Gardendale’s motion to separate. Alternatively, the plaintiffs
argue that the Court’s remedy does not cure the constitutional violation or provide
sufficient deterrence to future constitutional violations.
Finally, the plaintiffs
submit that the Court’s order exacerbates the message of inferiority conveyed by
Gardendale’s conduct. The Court addresses each argument in turn.
a. Law of the Case
The plaintiffs contend that the Fifth Circuit established the law of the case
concerning splinter districts in the 1971 Stout decision. (Doc. 1151, pp. 14-16).
The “law of the case” is a legal doctrine.
“Under the law of the case doctrine, both district courts and appellate
courts are generally bound by a prior appellate decision in the same
case.” [Alphamed, Inc. v. B. Braun Med., Inc., 367 F.3d 1280, 128586 (11th Cir. 2004)]. “The law of the case doctrine, self-imposed by
the courts, operates to create efficiency, finality and obedience within
the judicial system.” Litman v. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 825 F.2d
1506, 1511 (11th Cir. 1987).
However, the law-of-the-case doctrine only bars consideration of
“those legal issues that were actually, or by necessary implication,
decided in the former proceeding.” Oladeinde v. City of Birmingham,
230 F.3d 1275, 1288 (11th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Further, “[e]xceptions to this doctrine apply when
substantially different evidence is produced, when there has been a
change in controlling authority, or when the prior decision was clearly
erroneous and would result in manifest injustice.” Jackson v. Ala.
State Tenure Com’n [sic], 405 F.3d 1276, 1283 (11th Cir. 2005).
Thus, “when the evidence and the inferences that may be drawn from
[the record] change, the issue presented changes as well,” such that
“the law of the case is the law made on a given set of facts.” Id.
Newman v. Ormond, 456 Fed. Appx. 866, 867 (11th Cir. 2012).
In its April 24 opinion, this Court discussed Stout I, writing that in
[t]he Fifth Circuit authorized this Court to refuse to recognize splinter
districts that “‘hinder vindication of federal constitutional
guarantees.’” 448 F.2d at 404 (quoting N. Carolina State Bd. of Educ.
v. Swann, 402 U.S. 43, 45 (1971)). The Fifth Circuit stated:
where the form[ul]ation of splinter districts, albeit validly
created under state law, have the effect of thwarting the
implementation of a unitary school system, the district
court may not, consistent with the teachings of [Swann],
recognize their creation.
448 F.2d at 404. Explaining that it was concerned not only with
discriminatory intent but also with disruptive effects, the Fifth Circuit
stated: “The process of desegregation shall not be swayed by innocent
action which results in prolonging an unconstitutional dual system.
The existence of unconstitutional discrimination is not to be
determined solely by intent.” Id. at 404 n. 2.
(Doc. 1141, pp. 27-28).
In its April 24 opinion, the Court also explained that nearly one year after
the Fifth Circuit decided Stout I, the United States Supreme Court weighed in on
the issue of splinter districts in Wright. As the plaintiffs acknowledge in a footnote
in their motion for reconsideration, although the Fifth Circuit held in Stout I that a
district court may not recognize a splinter district that hinders a parent district’s
effort to fulfill its obligations under a desegregation order, the Supreme Court
subsequently held in Wright that a district court may exercise its discretion in
deciding whether to authorize a splinter district. (Doc. 1151, p. 15 n. 6). The
Court’s discussion of Wright in the April 24 opinion is lengthy. In pertinent part
the Court wrote that in Wright:
[t]he Supreme Court stated that if the proposed separation “would
impede the dismantling of the dual system, then a district court, in the
exercise of its remedial discretion, may enjoin [the separation] from
being carried out.”
(Doc. 1141, p. 36) (quoting Wright, 407 U.S. at 460).
With respect to a district court’s remedial discretion, the Court explained
that in Wright, the Supreme Court:
conferred on district courts primary responsibility for evaluating all of
the relevant factors relating to separation because “[t]he weighing of
these factors to determine their effect upon the process of
desegregation is a delicate task that is aided by a sensitivity to local
conditions, and the judgment is primarily the responsibility of the
(Doc. 1141, p. 39) (quoting 407 U.S. at 466 (in turn citing Brown v. Bd. of Educ.,
349 U.S. 294, 299 (1955)). As this Court noted, in Wright, the Supreme Court
“favorably cited appellate decisions in this case and in Lee v. Macon County Board
of Education, 448 F.2d 746 (1971),” decisions in which plaintiffs’ counsel played a
significant role. (Doc. 1141, p. 36; Doc. 1151, pp. 14-15). But the Supreme Court
held that district courts could exercise their discretion in weighing the factors
concerning separation and “the local conditions.” Consequently, although the Fifth
Circuit “did not give the trial court a choice as to whether it ‘may or may not’
recognize [a] splinter district’s creation,” the Supreme Court did. (Doc. 1151, p.
15). Thus, there was a change in controlling authority.
Moreover, as this Court explained, in Wright, the Supreme Court held that
“‘a court supervising the process of desegregation’ does not ‘exercise its remedial
discretion responsibly where it approves a plan that, in the hope of providing better
‘quality education’ to some children, has a substantial adverse effect upon the
quality of education available to others.’” (Doc. 1141, p. 37 (quoting 407 U.S. at
463)). As this Court explained at pp. 2-4, 12-13, and 23 above, this Court has not
approved Gardendale’s separation plan. Instead, the Court rejected Gardendale’s
separation plan and ordered a host of remedial measures that will advance the
Jefferson County Board’s efforts to fulfill its obligations under the 1971
Furthermore, in Wright, the Supreme Court “recognized that in the realm of
public education, a desire for local control was understandable,” and the Supreme
Court “recognized the possibility that the city might be able to operate a municipal
district after a unitary system in the county had ‘been established and accepted.’”
(Doc. 1141, p. 39 (quoting 407 U.S. at 470). Importantly, only five justices
believed that the City of Emporia’s separation would impact the parent district’s
efforts to desegregate; four justices disagreed. (Doc. 1141, pp. 39-40). The
separation effort in Wright began two weeks after the supervising district court
entered a desegregation order. (Doc. 1141, p. 34). This Court believes that both
the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court would find that the
age of this case diminishes the likelihood that Gardendale’s separation would
impede the county’s effort to fulfill its desegregation obligations.
Lastly, in deciding whether this Court must deny separation because of the
Fifth Circuit’s 1971 holding in Stout I, this Court believes that an appellate court
would take into account the fact that this case has sat dormant for years. With the
exception of occasional school construction or student assignment and transfer
proposals, which generally were presented to the Court by the parties jointly, no
activity has occurred. For decades, no party has made an effort to move this case
towards resolution. Neither the plaintiffs nor the United States has filed a motion
asking the Court to address inequities in the Jefferson County system that seem to
be vestiges of de jure segregation (such as the faculty assignments), and no party
has asked the Court to conduct an analysis of Green factors to determine what
work remains to be done to under the 1971 desegregation order. 10 As best the
undersigned can tell, until 2014, this Court had not asked the parties for a report on
the Green factors.
The Court fully respects the rule that the Fifth Circuit
announced in Stout I and recognizes that the rule fit the circumstances before the
appellate court in 1971. The Court would follow Stout I without hesitation if the
circumstances were the same today, but the Court believes that the appellate courts
today would find that it would work a manifest injustice for this Court not to take
the lack of activity in the case into account in determining a proper remedy. As the
Eleventh Circuit stated in Newman, “the law of the case is the law made on a given
set of facts,” and the facts of this case have changed. Newman, 456 Fed. Appx. at
For these reasons, the Court does not believe it its bound under the law of
the case doctrine to follow the mandatory language in Stout I. The Court believes
that it has complied with the Supreme Court’s holding in Wright by exercising its
discretion in light of all of the Wright factors and the local conditions in Jefferson
County and Gardendale. As a practical matter, the Court’s equitable remedy
places the Gardendale Board in the same position as the Pleasant Grove Board: if
Based on the Court’s review of the docket in this case, it appears that the most recent motion
for relief preceding the current dispute was filed in November 2003 by the plaintiffs. That
motion concerned interdistrict transfers relating to the Leeds municipal district. (Docs. 838,
848). Before that, the United States filed a motion for relief in 1989. (Doc. 1, p. 47). The Court
identified no motions for affirmative relief between 1989 and 2003, and no motions for relief
from 2003 until this Court called for a review of the Green factors in 2014.
the Gardendale Board does not comply with this Court’s orders in good faith, then
the Court will have the authority to dissolve the board and return any school that
the Gardendale Board controls to the county.
b. Curing the Constitutional Violation and Deterring Future Violations
The Court already has explained many of the ways in which the remedial
measures that the Court has ordered “closely fit the constitutional violation” and
“place persons unconstitutionally denied an opportunity or advantage in ‘the
position they would have occupied in the absence of [discrimination.]” (Doc.
1151, p. 18) (quoting Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U.S. 267, 280 (1977)); see pp. 3-14
above. The Court has not yet discussed the provision in the Court’s order that
states that the Gardendale City Council must appoint at least one AfricanAmerican resident of the City of Gardendale to the Gardendale Board of Education
by June 2017. This aspect of the Court’s order places at least one AfricanAmerican citizen in a position he or she would have occupied but for racial bias.
The Court’s remedy also removes an advantage that some of the individuals
who support separation wanted to achieve. Some of the individuals who support
separation wanted to eliminate federal supervision of their schools. (See Doc.
1141, pp. 82, 87). Now, those citizens will experience active federal supervision
under a brand new desegregation order.
Finally, the language of the Court’s opinion has both a curative and a
deterrent effect. As the Gardendale Board pointed out early and often, this is not
1971. Today, racism, though certainly not eradicated, is unacceptable to most, and
businesses often will avoid communities that have reputations for racial
discrimination. In 2017, a public finding of racial discrimination in a community
has consequences. In 1965, the Jefferson County Board implemented this Court’s
first desegregation order “without consent or agree[ment].” (Doc. 1141, p. 12).
The Court anticipates that Gardendale’s effort to implement the 2017 Gardendale
desegregation order will be entirely different.
For additional discussion of the deterrent value of the Court’s April 24
opinion, see pp. 31, 39-40 above.
c. The Message Conveyed by the Court’s Order
Certainly the most troubling aspect of the plaintiffs’ argument for denial of
Gardendale’s motion to separate is the plaintiffs’ contention that the equitable
remedy that the Court fashioned exacerbates the message of inferiority that
Gardendale’s separation effort has conveyed. The Court understands how the
plaintiffs might have interpreted the Court’s order that way, and the Court regrets
that its inadequate explanation of the scope of the remedy and the reasons for the
remedy may have created that impression. The Court hopes that this explanation
of its decision eases any doubts about the Court’s concern for enforcing the
Fourteenth Amendment and allays any anxiety that the Court’s April 24 opinion
may have caused.
Plaintiffs acknowledge that the Court forcefully condemned Gardendale’s
conduct. The Court intended for the language of the April 24 decision to express
that “[f]or Black schoolchildren in Jefferson County, the path to an equal education
– and all that it signifies – has been a long and challenging one.” (Doc. 1151, p.
23). The Court devoted many pages of analysis to illustrating that point. The
challenge for this Court now is to balance the interests of the African-American
students residing in Gardendale whose parents believe that separation will secure
for their children the best possible public school education with the interests of
African-American students who live beyond Gardendale’s municipal limits and
were the target of Gardendale’s efforts to secure its municipal boundaries.
Like Dr. Porterfield Miller, the parents of African-American children who
spoke in support of separation recognize that racism exists in Gardendale, but they
choose to live in Gardendale, and they have asked this Court to give their children
an opportunity to attend a municipal school system where these parents will have
greater control over their children’s education.
Just as the Court reasonably
inferred that the small group of individuals who were part of the Facebook remarks
about students from Center Point and North Smithfield were not alone, the Court
also reasonably infers that the parents of black students in Gardendale who have
come forward to ask this Court to permit Gardendale to separate are not alone.
African-American children will constitute just over 20% of the student population
of a Gardendale system that consists of Gardendale residents (not counting future
interdistrict transfers). (Doc. 1141, p. 125). That is a sizeable number of students
whose parents may support separation.
In weighing the equities of the situation, the Court must consider the
message that it will send to these parents if the Court denies Gardendale’s motion
to separate outright. After decades of struggle, if the Court were to say no to these
parents and give them the choice of having their African-American children attend
a public school system that these parents consider deficient or of moving to a
municipal system elsewhere in Jefferson County that will give these parents the
control that they desire, what has the struggle done for these parents and their
children? Should the Court disregard their choices? And isn’t it possible that
these children and their parents will do more to cure the despicable societal
malignancy of racism than an order that drives a wedge in a community and
creates new resentments? One of the parents of these children stood before the
Court and said that he would do everything in his power to welcome AfricanAmerican students who live outside of the City of Gardendale into schools in a
Gardendale system. The Court will hold him to his word and will, by order if
necessary, make certain that every parent in Gardendale does the same. Again, if
the effort fails, the Court has the authority to dissolve the Gardendale system just
as it dissolved the Pleasant Grove system years ago.
The plaintiffs argue that decades have come and gone, and the Jefferson
County Board still operates schools that are racially identifiable. (Doc. 1151, p.
23). On the record in this case, it appears that all of the parties and the Court bear
some responsibility for the state of affairs in Jefferson County. Decades of
inactivity by all of the parties and the Court have allowed vestiges of de jure
segregation to linger unaddressed. 11 Those days are over.
The undersigned judicial officer first became involved in school
desegregation litigation in 2013 when the Clerk of Court reassigned to the
undersigned the case involving the City of Huntsville public school system. (See
Doc. 282 in Case 63-cv-109).
As the Court examined a contested student
assignment motion, the Court found a record of insufficient compliance with the
Court’s desegregation order for the Huntsville school district. As in Jefferson
County, there had been no comprehensive assessment of the Green factors. After
an evidentiary hearing that lasted a number of days, the Court wrote an extensive
opinion that detailed the lapses in compliance with the desegregation order in that
The Court notes that all but one of the attorneys for the private plaintiffs and the United States
are new to this case. The one attorney for the private plaintiffs who has prior involvement in the
case represented the plaintiffs at a time when counsel for the plaintiffs fought diligently to obtain
an equal education for black students in Jefferson County. He recently returned to this case as
counsel for the private plaintiffs. Thus, none of the current attorneys for the plaintiffs or the
United States bears responsibility for the inactivity in this case, and the Court does not mean to
suggest otherwise by discussing the parties’ inactivity over the years.
case. (See Doc. 364 in Case 63-cv-109). In its opinion, the Court ordered the
parties in that case to mediation. Over many months, Chief Magistrate Judge Ott
devoted tireless effort to help the parties negotiate a 92-page consent agreement
that tailors the Huntsville school district’s desegregation obligations to the current
status of the district and provides a new path toward the end of federal supervision,
per the dictates of binding Supreme Court precedent. The Court is actively
involved in that district’s desegregation efforts, and the Court has amended the
desegregation consent decree when experience has proven that change is
necessary. (See Docs. 350, 489, 490, 491, 509 in Case 63-cv-109).
The Court’s experience in Huntsville led the Court to examine the record in
the other school desegregation cases which have been assigned to it, including the
action involving the school districts in Jefferson County. Unlike some school
districts operating under a desegregation order, over the years, Jefferson County
has filed required annual reports with the Court. The Court credits the Jefferson
County Board for its efforts in that regard; the consistent reports are evidence of
good faith. Those reports reveal that the county school system has failed to meet a
number of its court-ordered desegregation obligations. Yet, those lapses have not
It is not uncommon for school desegregation cases to sit idle for years, and
the Court recognizes that any number of reasons may explain the parties’ inaction.
As one court observed:
By operating under the status quo, school districts have little burdenmostly just remaining in compliance with previous court orders and
filing reports. However, once the school district moves for unitary
status, possible negative consequences abound: 1) the rejuvenated
litigation may stir up long-dissipated community unrest; 2) closer
adversarial and judicial scrutiny may reveal additional areas of
inequality, resulting in the need for additional effort and expense from
the school district; and 3) the legal proceedings could result in
enormous legal and administrative expenses for already cash-strapped
Coppedge v. Franklin Cty. Bd. of Educ., 345 F. Supp. 2d 567, 572 (E.D.N.C. 2004)
(quoted in Doc. 364, p. 2 in Case 63-cv-109). As noted, at this juncture, it is
neither practical nor worthwhile to try to determine why the parties and the Court
have accepted the status quo in this case for so long. (Doc. 1141, pp. 183-84, n.
To the extent that the Court bears responsibility for allowing vestiges of de
jure segregation to linger unaddressed, the Court accepts that responsibility and
has, since 2014, been in the process of attempting to fulfill its obligations to the
families who attend the schools in the Jefferson County district by moving the
parties toward a cooperative, negotiated consent decree that will match Jefferson
County’s desegregation obligations to the current state of affairs in the district.
That effort is consistent with the Supreme Court’s instruction that this Court and
the parties must “work continuously toward the ultimate objective-‘restor[ing]
state and local authorities to the control of a school system that is operating in
compliance with the Constitution.’” Coppedge, 345 F. Supp. 2d at 572 (quoting
Freeman, 503 U.S. at 489). 12
It is inevitable that successful implementation of a desegregation order will
herald the end of federal supervision, but dereliction of the Court’s obligation to
press school districts to fulfill their obligations for any reason only exacerbates
“the denial of fundamental rights to many thousands of school children.”
Alexander v. Holmes Cty. Bd. of Educ., 396 U.S. 19, 20 (1969) (quoted in Doc.
1141 at p. 16). The Court chooses to heed the Supreme Court’s admonition in
Alexander that dismantling segregated school systems with all deliberate speed is
not fast enough and “is no longer constitutionally permissible.” Alexander, 396
U.S. at 20 (quoted in Doc. 1141 at p. 16). This Court will remain, as it has for the
past four years, vigilant and attentive to the work ahead.
Counsel for the Gardendale Board and counsel the private plaintiffs have offered similar
characterizations of the Court’s motives in this desegregation action. As the Court noted in its
April 24 opinion, counsel for the Gardendale Board contends that federal courts—presumably
this Court included—are tired of school desegregation cases. (Doc. 1141, p. 4 (citing Doc. 1097,
pp. 17-18, 30)). The private plaintiffs contend that this Court resurrected the dormant Stout
action, only to speed it to a declaration of unitary status so that federal supervision of the
Jefferson County district could come to an end. (Doc. 1151, pp. 1-2). Neither characterization is
correct or fair given the time and the resources that the Court has invested in school
desegregation cases over the past four years. This Court will supervise both the Jefferson
County district and the Gardendale district until the vestiges of de jure segregation and
institutional racial discrimination are eliminated, and the Court will ensure that each district
complies with the Fourteenth Amendment in good faith.
The Court realizes that for some of the private plaintiffs and the families
whom they represent, anything short of denial of Gardendale’s motion is an
unacceptable remedy. The Court has done its best to explain why it believes that
outright denial would be a short-lived victory and would harm Jefferson County’s
efforts to comply with the Fourteenth Amendment in the long run. The Court does
not view the equitable remedy in this case as a victory for Gardendale, and the
Court is certain that no one in Gardendale sees it as such, given the fact that
Gardendale’s separation effort was motivated by a desire to eliminate federal
supervision under the 1971 desegregation order. The equitable remedy in this
situation is based on the set of circumstances presented to the Court in this
instance, and the Court would not hesitate to deny a motion to separate under other
The Court also will not hesitate to roll back Gardendale’s
separation if Gardendale does not comply in good faith with the new desegregation
order that the Court will enter.
The Court is willing to work with the parties to make practical adjustments
to the remedial steps that the Court has ordered to facilitate implementation of the
remedial measures, but the Court is not persuaded by the plaintiffs’ arguments that
outright denial of the Gardendale Board’s motion to separate is the appropriate
way to resolve this dispute.
The private plaintiffs requested oral argument on their motion for
reconsideration. (Doc. 1151, p. 24). Before setting a hearing, the Court wished to
provide the parties with a supplemental explanation for the equitable remedy
announced in the April 24, 2017 decision. If the private plaintiffs still wish to
present argument on their motion, then the Court will hear from the private
DONE and ORDERED this May 9, 2017.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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