Case: Freeman v. Pitts

1:68-cv-11946 | U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Filed Date: July 5, 1968

Closed Date: 1996

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This school desegregation case began after the DeKalb County School System (DCSS) adopted a free choice program in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s integration mandate in Brown v. Board of Education. The plan had little overall effect; a few black students decided to attend the previously all-white schools, but no white students decided to attend the previously all-black schools. This summary is based on information from historical sources and judicial opinions. On July 5, 1968, several…

This school desegregation case began after the DeKalb County School System (DCSS) adopted a free choice program in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s integration mandate in Brown v. Board of Education. The plan had little overall effect; a few black students decided to attend the previously all-white schools, but no white students decided to attend the previously all-black schools. This summary is based on information from historical sources and judicial opinions.

On July 5, 1968, several black school children with their parents, filed a putative class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against DeKalb County. They argued that the free choice plan was insufficient, based on the Supreme Court's May 1968 decision in Green v. School Board of New Kent County, holding that the mere adoption of school choice plans did not satisfy the desegregation requirements of Brown v. Board of Education. In Green, the Supreme Court held school districts needed to be desegregated with respect to all aspects of school administration including: student assignment, faculty, staff, transportation, extracurricular activities, and physical facilities. These six areas of school operations have come to be known as the Green factors.

After the filing of the DeKalb complaint, the School District began working with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to create an integration plan. The plan eliminated school choice and required instead that all previously designated black schools be closed and the students be enrolled in the remaining, (previously white) schools. This plan was approved in a consent decree by the District Court in June of 1969 and the District Court maintained jurisdiction. See Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992).

In 1976 the District Court ordered additional requirements for the integration plan to be added. The DCSS was required to: (1) expand their Majority-to-minority transfer program (a program that allowed students that were in the majority race of their current school, to transfer to a school where they would be the minority race); (2) create a bi-racial committee to oversee future boundary line changes and the transfer program; (3) reassign teachers so that the ratio of black to white teachers at a given school was similar to the racial balance of the school district’s population. According to Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992), there had been large population shifts in the district, resulting in an increase of black families and school children in the southern part of the district (and an increasingly white population in the northern district). Accordingly, in 1983, the District Court ordered DCSS was again to make changes to the transfer program.

As populations continued to shift, DCSS made adjustments to the integration plans. But this brought about new issues. For example, when one primarily white school became over enrolled, DCSS attempted to expand the physical grounds of the school rather than transferring the extra students to a neighboring black school. The District Court found this action was acceptable because the DCSS had been a unitary school district since 1969. On March 22, 1985, the Fifth Circuit reversed this order, finding the school district was not desegregated, and that until it became a unitary district, any state action perpetuating the dual features would violate the mandate to desegregate. Pitts v. Freeman, 755 F.2d 1423 (11th Cir. 1985).

In 1986 the School District moved to dismiss the case because it had met all of the requirements of the consent decree – creating a unitary system. In 1988, the District Court found that DCSS had achieved maximum practical desegregation from 1969 to 1986 and was a unitary system with regard to student assignments, transportation, physical facilities, and extracurricular activities (referencing the Green factors). The court ruled it would order no further relief in those areas. Additionally, it found the rapid population shifts in DeKalb County were not caused by any action on the part of the DCSS. The District Court relinquished jurisdiction over the four completed Green factors but ordered the School District to remedy the remaining factors of teacher and principal assignments, resource allocation, and quality of education. For the remaining three categories the District Court maintained jurisdiction. See Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 887 F.2d 1438 (11th Cir. 1989) for a detailed description of the satisfied Green factors. Both parties appealed to the 11th Circuit. The 11th Circuit reversed the District Court, holding that a school achieves unitary status only after satisfying all six factors addressed in Green and that judicial control over all categories was required. Freeman, 887 F.2d 1438 (1989).

The School District obtained review to the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court, reversed the 11th Circuit. The Court held that, in the course of supervising desegregation plans, federal courts have the authority to relinquish supervision and control of school districts before full compliance had been achieved in every area of school operations. Justice Kennedy stated the vestiges of segregation must be the actual causal link to the de jure violation being remedied and therefore the any remedy imposed could only be implemented in so far as it advanced the objective of alleviating the initial constitutional violation of segregation. But, where re-segregation was the result of private choice, it was beyond the authority of the federal courts to take measures to counteract massive demographic shifts. Justice Kennedy explained District Courts should consider whether there had been satisfactory compliance with the remedial decree, whether retention of judicial control was necessary, and whether the school district had demonstrated it had a good-faith commitment to the whole of the remedial decree and the requirements of the Constitution. Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992).

The 11th Circuit remanded to the District Court to consider the remaining Green factors and the additional factors of education quality and the good faith commitment of the school district. Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 979 F.2d 1472 (11th Cir. 1992).

The procedural history following the 11th Circuit remand is documented in Mills v. Freeman, 942 F. Supp. 1449 (N.D. Ga. 1996). On September 8, 1995 the Court issued an order stating it would not dismiss the suit with respect to the categories of faculty assignments, resource allocation, quality of education, and “good faith”, because the district was not in full compliance.

The Defendants later moved to dismiss. On June 12, 1996, the District Court found DCSS had met its requirements and dismissed the case. Mills v. Freeman, 942 F. Supp. 1449 (N.D. Ga. 1996).

There was further litigation regarding attorney’s fees as discussed in Mills by Mills v. Freeman, 118 F.3d 727 (11th Cir. 1997).

This case is now closed.

Reported decisions:

Pitts v. Freeman, 755 F.2d 1423 (11th Cir. 1985).

Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 887 F.2d 1438 (11th Cir. 1989).

Pitts v. Freeman, 891 F.2d 907 (Table) (11th Cir. 1989).

Freeman v. Pitts, 498 U.S. 1081 (1991).

Freeman v. Pitts, 498 U.S. 1081(1991).

Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992).

Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 979 F.2d 1472 (11th Cir. 1992).

Mills v. Freeman, 942 F. Supp. 1449 (N.D. Ga. 1996).

Mills by Mills v. Freeman, 118 F.3d 727 (11th Cir. 1997).

Summary Authors

Taylor Brook (3/1/2019)

Related Cases

Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Va, Eastern District of Virginia (1964)

People


Judge(s)

Edenfield, Newell (Georgia)

Erba, Andrew F. (Pennsylvania)

Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Louisiana)

O'Kelley, William Clark (Georgia)

Pittman, Thomas Virgil (Alabama)

Roney, Paul Hitch (Florida)

Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Florida)

Vance, Robert Smith (Alabama)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Abrams, Willie (Maryland)

Greenberg, Jack (New York)

Judge(s)

Edenfield, Newell (Georgia)

Erba, Andrew F. (Pennsylvania)

Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Louisiana)

O'Kelley, William Clark (Georgia)

Pittman, Thomas Virgil (Alabama)

Roney, Paul Hitch (Florida)

Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Florida)

Vance, Robert Smith (Alabama)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Abrams, Willie (Maryland)

Greenberg, Jack (New York)

Hailes, Edward A. Jr. (Maryland)

Hawkins, J. Stanley (Georgia)

Hopson, Mark Daniel (District of Columbia)

Lee, Rex E. (District of Columbia)

Moore, Howard Jr. (Georgia)

Myer, John Rea (Georgia)

Phillips, Carter G (District of Columbia)

Ralston, Charles Stephen (New York)

Rindskopf, Peter E. (Georgia)

Walbert, David F. (Georgia)

Weatherly, Charles L. (Georgia)

Wilde, Kathleen L. (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Sams, Gary M. (Georgia)

Other Attorney(s)

Baker, Robert B. (Massachusetts)

Edwards, Boykin Jr. (Georgia)

Johnson, Charles Spurgeon III (Georgia)

Parks, Allan Leroy Jr. (Georgia)

Seward, Coleman (Georgia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket

Nov. 17, 1988 Docket

Docket [1968-1995]

Mills v. Freeman

March 20, 1995 Docket

Docket

Mills v. Freeman

Oct. 29, 1998 Docket

Complaint

July 5, 1968 Complaint

Complaint

July 5, 1968 Complaint

Order Modifying M-to-M Program

Nov. 3, 1976 Order/Opinion

Opinion and Order

Nov. 3, 1976 Order/Opinion

Order Modifying the M to M transfer Program

Pitts v. Cherry

Nov. 3, 1976 Order/Opinion

Order for Hearing on May 15, 1978

May 3, 1978 Order/Opinion

Order Approving Motion to Amend Attendance Zones

May 23, 1978 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Freeman v. Pitts, 112 S. Ct. 1430 (1992): The Travails of A "Garden Variety Desegregation Case"

Margo Schlanger

As in many desegregation cases, in Freeman v. Pitts, residential segregation led to the neighborhood schools becoming racially identifiable. The School District argued that it had not caused resident… May 17, 1993

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Georgia

Case Type(s):

School Desegregation

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 5, 1968

Closing Date: 1996

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

black citizens and their children in DeKalb County, Georgia.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Unknown

Defendants

DeKalb County Board of Education , School District

Robert Freeman, School District

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Slavery/Involuntary servitude

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1969 - None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Student assignment

Discrimination Prohibition

Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention

Monitoring

Issues

General:

Education

Racial segregation

School/University Facilities

School/University policies

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black

Type of Facility:

Government-run