GEBHART et al. v. BELTON et al.
GEBHART et al. v. BULAH et al.
BELTON et al. v. GEBHART et al.
BULAH et al. v. GEBHART et al.
Supreme Court of Delaware
August 28, 1952
Writ of Certiorari Granted November 24, 1952; See 73 S.Ct. 213
33 Del. Ch. 144; 91 A.2d 137
Disposition: The judgment of the Court of Chancery is affirmed.
H. Albert Young, Atty. Gen., and Louis J. Finger, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellants and cross-appellees.
Louis L. Redding, of Wilmington, and Jack Greenberg, of New York City, for appellees and cross-appellants.
Judges: SOUTHERLAND, Chief Justice, WOLCOTT, Justice, and CAREY, Judge, sitting.
Opinion by: SOUTHERLAND, Chief Justice
Two cases, alike in respect of basic principles of law, but differing in respect of the facts, were filed in the court below by certain citizens of Negro blood, seeking the admittance of the plaintiffs1 to public schools maintained for white pupils only. The first case, brought against the members of the State Board of Education and certain other school officials, concerns the claim of the plaintiffs, Ethel Louise Belton and others, residents in the Claymont Special School District in New Castle County and all of high school age, to be admitted to the high school maintained in that district for white pupils. The second case, brought against the members of the State Board of Education and certain other school officials, concerns the claim of the plaintiff, Shirley Barbara Bulah, a resident of Hockessin, New Castle County, to be admitted to School No. 29, an elementary school at Hockessin maintained for white pupils.
The relief sought in each case is a declaratory judgment that the provisions of the Delaware Constitution and laws requiring segregation in the public schools are in contravention of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution, and also an injunction restraining the defendants from denying the plaintiffs admittance to the schools maintained for white pupils.
The cases were consolidated and tried before the Chancellor, who rendered a judgment denying the prayers of the complaints for a declaratory judgment but enjoining the defendants from refusing the plaintiffs admittance to the schools for whites. 87 A.2d 862.
It appears from the pleadings and testimony that the following issues were made below and determined by the Chancellor and are here for review:
I. Do the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment forbidding a state to deny to any citizen the equal protection of the laws forbid segregation of pupils in the public schools on the basis of color?
II. If state-imposed segregation is not in itself unlawful, are the educational facilities afforded by the State to the plaintiffs substantially equal to those afforded white pupils similarly situated?
Upon the authority of applicable decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States the Chancellor resolved the first question in the negative. Upon a review of the evidence pertaining to the second question he held, first, as to the plaintiffs Ethel Louise Belton and others, that the educational facilities afforded them, i.e., those of the Howard High School in the City of Wilmington, maintained for Negro pupils, are substantially inferior to those of the Claymont High School; and second, as to the plaintiff Shirley Barbara Bulah, that the educational facilities afforded her, i.e., elementary school No. 107 at Hockessin, maintained for Negro pupils, are substantially inferior to those of School No. 29.
We take up these questions in the above order.
I. Segregation per se.
Article X of the Constitution of the State of Delaware provides in part as follows:
"Section 1. The General Assembly shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a general and efficient system of free public schools, and may require by law that every child, not physically or mentally disabled, shall attend the public school, unless educated by other means.
"Section 2. In addition to the income of the investments of the Public School Fund, the General Assembly shall make provision for the annual payment of not less than one hundred thousand dollars for the benefit of the free public schools which, with the income of the investments of the Public School Fund, shall be equitably apportioned among the school districts of the State as the General Assembly shall provide; and the money so apportioned shall be used exclusively for the payment of teachers' salaries and for furnishing free text books; provided however, that in such apportionment, no distinction shall be made on account of race or color, and separate schools for white and colored children shall be maintained. All other expenses connected with the maintenance of free public schools, and all expenses connected with the erection or repair of free public school buildings shall be defrayed in such manner as shall be provided by law."
Paragraph 2631, Revised Code of Delaware 1935 provides as follows:
"Sec. 9. Shall Maintain Uniform School System; Separate Schools for White Children, Colored Children, and Moors; Elementary Schools: -- The State Board of Education is authorized, empowered, directed and required to maintain a uniform, equal and effective system of public schools throughout the State, and shall cause the provisions of this Chapter, the by-laws or rules and regulations and the policies of the State Board of Education to be carried into effect. The schools provided shall be of two kinds; those for white children and those for colored children. The schools for white children shall be free for all white children between the ages of six and twenty-one years, inclusive; and the schools for colored children shall be free to all colored children between the ages of six and twenty-one years, inclusive. The schools for white children shall be numbered and the schools for colored children shall be numbered as numbered prior to the year 1919. The State Board of Education shall establish schools for children of people called Moors or Indians, and if any Moor or Indian school is in existence or shall be hereafter established, the State Board of Education shall pay the salary of any teacher or teachers thereof, provided that the school is open for school sessions during the minimum number of days required by law for school attendance and provided further that such school shall be free to all children of the people called Moors, or the people called Indians, between the ages of six and twenty-one years. No white or colored child shall be permitted to attend such a school without the permission of the State Board of Education. The public schools of the State shall include elementary schools which shall be of such number of grades at the State Board of Education shall decide after consultation with the Trustees of the District in which the school is situated."