28. Following the final denial of minor plaintiff's application for reassignment to the Chapel Hill Junior High School, the plaintiffs, after having first obtained leave of court, filed a supplemental complaint alleging that the reassignment of the minor plaintiff was denied solely on account of race, and praying for injunctive relief.
The questions for decision are (1) whether the plaintiffs exhausted their administrative remedies under the North Carolina Assignment and Enrollment of Pupils Act,
and (2) whether the minor plaintiff was refused reassignment to the Chapel Hill Junior High School because of his race.
With respect to the first question, it is conceded that the plaintiffs properly filed written applications for reassignment, and proper written requests for Board hearings, in 1959 and 1960. It is further conceded that the applications and requests were filed within the times prescribed by Section 115-178, General Statutes of North Carolina. The only contention made by the defendant is that there was no adequate compliance with this statute, and consequently no adequate exhaustion of administrative remedies, since the plaintiffs failed to swear witnesses and present testimony at the hearings. In making this argument, the defendant relies principally upon Holt v. Raleigh City Board of Education, D.C.E.D.N.C.1958, 164 F.Supp. 853, affirmed 1959, 4 Cir., 265 F.2d 95; certiorari denied 1959, 361 U.S. 818, 80 S. Ct. 59, 4 L. Ed. 2d 63. There is no merit to this contention. The Holt case only holds that applicants for reassignment are delinquent in failing to attend Board hearings for the purpose of being interrogated and furnishing all relevant information in their possession. The minor plaintiff and both of his parents attended the Board hearing in 1959, and the mother of the minor plaintiff attended the hearing in 1960. Additionally, at the 1960 hearing, Mrs. Vickers was tendered to the defendant Board for any questions the members might care to ask her. The written applications were full and complete, and it is reasonable to assume that the Board had all the information desired to enable it to make its decision. The only valid criticism to be offered is the failure of the plaintiffs in their 1960 application to give the relative distances from their home to the schools involved, but this is not sufficient, particularly when viewed in light of the experience of the plaintiffs before the defendant Board in 1959, to hold an inadequate exhaustion of administrative remedies. It is concluded that the plaintiffs have clearly established an exhaustion of their remedies provided by state law before applying to the court for relief.
The evidence further establishes that the minor plaintiff was denied reassignment to the Chapel Hill Junior High School because of his race. He had every right to be reassigned to the Carrboro Elementary School for the 1959-1960 school term. He lived much nearer the Carrboro Elementary School than the school to which assigned. Many white children of the same grade level living in his area where assigned to the Carrboro Elementary School, and the Chairman and two of the members of the Board testified that they were of the opinion that race was a factor in denying the application. If the minor plaintiff had been accorded his constitutional rights in 1959, he undoubtedly would have been transferred to the Chapel Hill Junior High School for the 1960-1961 school term.
Residence is an important factor present in 1959, but not present in 1960. The minor plaintiff lived much nearer the Carrboro Elementary School than the school to which assigned for the 1959-1960 school term, but lived nearer the Lincoln Junior-Senior High School than the school to which reassignment was sought for the 1960-1961 school term. However, it was stipulated that white children of the same grade level living near the plaintiffs were assigned to the Chapel Hill Junior High School for the 1960-1961 school term, and the Chairman and another member of the Board testified that they were of the opinion that the minor plaintiff would have been assigned to the Chapel Hill Junior High School had he been a white child. The testimony of other Board members was not offered. The fact that a decision was made by the defendant Board in the summer of 1959 to reassign first grade Negro students without regard to race, commencing with the 1960-1961 school term, while most commendable, is an indication that a majority of the Board members felt that it was not feasible to treat reassignment applications filed by other students in the same manner.
After considering the entire record, including the reasons assigned by the majority of the members of the defendant Board for denying the applications of the minor plaintiff for reassignment, it is concluded that the plaintiffs have established by a preponderance of the evidence that the minor plaintiff was denied reassignment to the Chapel Hill Junior High School for the 1960-1961 school term on account of his race. In reaching this conclusion, the court entertains no doubt about the absolute good faith and integrity of the members of the defendant Board, or that they based their decision on what they considered to be to the best interest of the minor plaintiff and the other students that would be affected. The Board members have undoubtedly labored under most difficult circumstances, and there is not the slightest basis for the apprehension expressed by defense counsel that if the plaintiffs prevail in this action the individual Board members will stand convicted in the eyes of the community which they serve of being 'guilty of racially motivated discriminatory denial of constitutional rights.' The fact that the Board members acted from the highest of motives, and based their decision on what they considered would be for the best interest of their community, does not alter the fact that the minor plaintiff has been denied substantial constitutional rights. The conclusion is inescapable that race was an important factor in the decisions made with respect to the transfer of the minor plaintiff.
Conclusions of Law
1. The court has jurisdiction of the parties and of the subject matter.
2. The plaintiffs adequately exhausted administrative remedies afforded them by state statutes before applying to the court for relief.
3. The minor plaintiff was denied reassignment to the Chapel Hill Junior High School for the 1960-1961 school term on account of his race, and is entitled to be admitted to that school for the 1961-1962 school term.
Counsel for the plaintiffs will present an appropriate decree after having first submitted same to counsel for the defendant for approval as to form.