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Bell v. School

October 31, 1963

RACHEL LYNN BELL, A MINOR, BY MRS, ODESSA K. BELL, HER MOTHER, ETC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
SCHOOL, CITY OF GARY, INDIANA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Author: Duffy

Before DUFFY, SCHNACKENBERG and CASTLE, Circuit Judges.

DUFFY, Circuit Judge.

Approximately one hundred minor school children enrolled in the public schools of Gary, Indiana, brought this action for a declaratory judgment upon their own behalf and also upon behalf of all others similarly situated. The principal relief asked was that defendants be enjoined from operating and providing racially segregated public schools in Gary, Indiana. One of the named defendants is The School City of Gary, Indiana.*fn1

Subsequent to the trial below, District Judge Beamer wrote an excellent opinion which was incorporated in his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. The opinion has been printed (D.C., 213 F. Supp. 819). In this opinion on appeal we have approved of, adopted and used a number of the District Court's concise statements of fact.

Gary is a rapidly growing industrial city in northwest Indiana. The District Judge pointed out that "Geographically it is shaped much like the capital letter 'T'. Its north boundary line is the southern shore of Lake Michigan. The stem of the 'T' extends approximately * * * two miles wide. The cross-bar of the 'T' is approximately four miles wide and extends east and west a distance of approximately ten and one-half miles. * * *"

In 1950, the population of Gary was 133,911 which included 39,326 Negroes. In 1960, the population was 178,320 of which 69,340 were Negroes.

The student population in the public schools of Gary for the 1951-1952 school year was 22,770 of which 8,406 or approximately 37% were Negroes. In the 1961-1962 school year there were 43,090 students in the public school system, and 23,055 or approximately 53% were Negroes.

In 1951, the School City of Gary maintained of school buildings had increased to forty. Additional schools were in the process of completion at the time of the trial students attended twelve schools which were populated from 99 to 100% by Negroes; 6,981 students attended five schools which were 77 to 95% Negroes; 4,066 attended four schools which had a range from 13 to 37% Begroes; 5,465 attended five schools which had a Negro population of from one to five percent.

The Negro population in Gary is concentrated in the "Central District" which occupies roughly the south half of the cross-bar of the "T" from east to west and is bounded on the north by the Wabash Railroad and on the south by the city limits and the Little Calumet River. Approximately 70,000 Negroes including 23,000 Negro school children live in this District which comprises about one third of the area of the city.

The City of Gary was organized in 1906. Originally, eight school districts were laid out, and as the school population required, one large school was built in each of the eight districts. As the school population expanded, elementary schools were built. At the same time, attendance zones were drawn for such elementary schools and as the students completed the course in the elementary school to which they were assigned, they then went to the high school in the district in which they resided for the completion of their public school education.

The Board of School Trustees is a bipartisan Board of five members appointed by the Mayor. The Board elects its own officers. Dr. LeRoy Bingham, a Negro, was the President of the Board when this suit was commenced. At the trial, he testified there was no policy of segregation of races in the Gary School system. He also testified the Board adopted a policy of transferring students from several congested areas to less congested areas in order to try to balance the loads in the various buildings; that it was the policy of the Board to make complete use of the facilities available for the benefit of all the children in the school system without regard to race.

The School staff has been integrated. A Negro occupies the position of Assistant Superintendent of Schools. He is one of three Assistant Superintendents, all of whom have equal rank. The Coordinator of Secondary Education is a Negro as is the Supervisor of Special Education, the Mathematics Consultant, a coordinator in the Food Services Department and a member of the Special Services Department who devotes a large part of his time to the problem of proper boundary lines for attendance areas. There are eighteen Negro principals and thirty-eight white principals.*fn2 On the teaching staff, there are 798 Negro teachers, 833 white teachers and 3 orientals. All schools with the exception of one small elementary school have at least one Negro teacher on the staff. All but five of the forty-two schools have at least one white teacher.

Those in charge of the administration of the Gary schools have had a difficult problem for more than a decade in maintaining facilities for the rapidly expanding school populaton. Twenty-two new schools or additions have been built in the last ten years and class rooms have been more than doubled. A school corporation in Indiana is limited in its bonding power to two per cent of the assessed valuation of the property in the District. The Gary School City has been bonded to its limits for the past several years.

For the year 1962, payable in 1963, the property tax rate for the school district of Gary is $5.85 per $100 of assessed valuation. The District Judge noted that this was either the highest or one ...


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