Southern school news. (Nashville, Tenn.) 1954-1965, September 03, 1954, Image 3
SOUTHERN SCHOOL NEWS —Sept. 3, 1954 —PAGE 3 Delaware WILMINGTON, Del. D ELAWARE —a border state di rectly involved in the segregation cases before the U. S. Supreme Court —greets the 1954-55 school year with an expressed willingness to accept the decision and mandate of the court, at least on top administrative levels. Regardless of what rank and file residents of school districts may say in their respective areas, Delaware is not only preparing for the transition from segregation to integration (or “desegregation,” as some call it) as soon as possible, but already Wil mington, the largest community in the state, and nine other school dis tricts were ready before the opening of school to undertake integration on varying planes. Within a week after the U. S. Su preme Court decision, Gov. J. Caleb Boggs sent a letter to the State Board of Education, saying: It will be the policy of this administra tion to work toward adjustment to the United States constitutional requirements. I respectfully ask the State Board of Edu cation to proceed toward this objective. Ten days after the Supreme Court decision, Atty. Gen. H. Albert Young, who had represented Delaware in the Supreme Court hearings, declared in a radio interview that the “separate but equal” provisions of the State Constitution were no longer binding upon school districts. “Any white school district in Delaware can admit Negroes immediately, if it so desires,” he declared. “On the other hand, school districts that still maintain seg regation bars are within the law of the state if they wish to refuse Negroes ad mission. I say this in view of the fact that the U. S. Supreme Court has not yet handed down a mandate in connection with its recent opinion.” THREE DISTRICTS OPENED But the 1953-54 school year in Del aware concluded with only three white school districts opening its doors to Negroes: the Claymont and Hockessin districts which were di rectly involved in the litigation; and the Arden school district, near Wil mington (a three-room country school) which admitted Negro chil dren soon after the decision of the State Supreme Court on the issue of “separate but equal facilities.” The State Supreme Court had ruled that where Negro facilities were not equal, those children could be al lowed to study in white schools until such time as their own facilities were improved. The little Arden school, supported by its community, admitted Negro children who otherwise would have had to attend schools consid ered inferior by their parents. Soon after the decision of the U. S. Supreme Court, the State Board of Education began to explore the method for moving toward integra tion. BIPARTISAN SUPPORT Its move was bolstered not only by the attitude of the governor of the state but also by the attorney general and most recently by “integration” planks adopted by the Democratic and Republican Parties of the state. The Democratic Party’s plank on “full citizenship” stated: Because we deplore the relegation of any American to a position of second '•'^ citizenship, we applaud the recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court affirming the constitutional right of all citizens to equal treatment in pub lic education and recreation. We recog nize that these decisions will help to create in Delaware a climate in which inferior citizenship status will not be tolerated. And the next week, the Republican Party of Delaware stated in its plat form plank on education: We promise continued improvement of the educational program and an orderly transition to integrated schools with re organization of school districts where de sirable and practicable. The Republican Party also called for the appointment of a state human relations commission and declared discrimination because of race, color or creed should be abolished.” '^ lese planks in the platforms of the Democratic and Republican par- tl ? s Were odopted in conventions without discussion and without a dis senting voice. From time to time during the sum mer months, the State Board of Edu cation and its chief exec ve officer, Dr. George R. Miller Jr., state super intendent of public instruction, is sued statements regarding the tran sition from segregation to integration. On June 11, the State Board of Education declared: As a general policy, the State Board of Education fully intends to carry out the mandates of the United States Su preme Court decision as expeditiously as possible. It is recognized that communi ties differ one from the other in tradition and attitudes; therefore, the actual car rying out of the integrative process will require a longer period of time in some parts of the state than in others. The State Board of Education added this policy: 1. Wilmington is permitted to move promptly in the direction of integra tion. 2. Other school authorities in the state together with interested citi zens should take “immediate” steps to hold discussions for formulating plans for desegregation and present these plans to the State Board of Education for review. At the same time, the State Board of Education recognized the prob lems of overlapping Negro and white school districts and the need for re appraising the needs for construction of certain schools or additions au thorized in 1953 by the General As sembly. LATER POLICY As the date for opening of public schools drew closer and as the State Board began to approve a number of integration plans submitted by some school districts, the board adopted another policy: 1. All school districts should im mediately take steps to develop plans for desegregation. 2. No pupils, except those with proper transfer permits, shall be ac cepted by any school from other schools unless and until plans from that school for desegregation in that area have been approved by the State Board of Education. 3. In those districts where desegre gation plans have not been first sub mitted for review, the status quo shall prevail on the opening of the school year. 4. All schools, maintaining four or more teachers, were requested to present by Oct. 1 at least tentative plans for desegregation in their area. This information will be submitted to Atty. Gen. Young as an aid to his presentation to the Supreme Court in the October hearings. Also, in the latter days of August, the State Board of Education author ized the employment of Miss Virginia Mason as a consultant in human re lations for the office of the superin tendent of public instruction. Miss Mason had been conducting classes in human relations in the schools of Delaware for the past eight years. And just before school opened, thp State Board of Education drafted a series of proposed guides for school districts, suggesting how the school officials can proceed to evolve plans for desegregation. A quick review of the desegrega tion program in Delaware follows: WILMINGTON Summer schools in Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware and near the northern boundary of the state, were conducted on an integrated basis. The only opposition came from one lone citizen dissenter who appeared at all meetings of the Wilmington Board of Education to object to any integration program. Early in July, the superintendent of the Wilmington public schools, Dr. Ward I. Miller, made public a plan of integration, hoping to receive pub lic reaction. He later admitted that there was little reaction of any kind. A month later, early in August, the Wilmington Board of Education adopted a plan for the 1954-55 school year. In general, it was integration in the elementary grades but no change in either the junior or senior high schools. Faculties in the elementary schools were integrated. Courses not available in the Negro Howard High School were opened to Negro students in the Brown Voca tional (white) School. The Wilmington school board also allowed transfers of pupils from one school to another, provided certain requirements were met and provided there was room in the school the pupils desired to attend. Involved in the integration plan were some brand new Negro schools hailed in the national architectural world as among the finest schools in the country. The decision to hold off integration in the junior and senior high schools, Dr. Miller said, was based on a desire of the school officials to study the ad ministrative problems attendant to the larger attendance areas. Dr. Miller also said he was relying a great deal upon the principals of the various schools involved in the integration plan. The approximate enrollment last year in the Wilmington elementary schools (from the first to sixth years inclusive) was: 4,610 white children and 1,873 Negroes. In the junior and senior high schools, the enrollment was approxi mately: 4,577 white and 1,311 Negro children. CLAYMONT Claymont, an incorporated town almost on the Pennsylvania-Dela- ware border, was directly involved in the Delaware-U. S. Supreme Court case that came up from the Court of Chancery and the State Su preme Court. After the decision of the State Su preme Court in favor of the Negro litigants, the Claymont school ad mitted Negroes from the Claymont area. And before the opening of the 1954-55 school year, the Claymont Board of Education, citing “the sat isfactory progress” of integration in its high school during the past two years, mapped a plan for integration. The board stated however that only the lack of adequate classroom space prevented the immediate end of all segregation in the district. The board then asked the Clay mont Parent-Teacher Association to form a community-wide committee on human relations with members from both Negroes and white resi dents and that this committee should function as long as necessary. In the meantime, integration has gone forward through all grades where room is available. NEWARK Newark is the seat of the Univer sity of Delaware. Its board of educa tion adopted a plan of integration involving junior and senior high school students but not in the ele mentary grades. This means that Negro students living in Newark— 14 miles from Wilmington—can elect to attend high school in their town instead of going to Wilmington’s Howard High School. Wilmer E. Shue, superintendent of the Newark schools, stated that inte gration of the upper grade students was “the easiest and most logical step” for Newark. NEW CASTLE The town of New Castle, which has always been faced with a prob lem of overcrowded conditions in its white schools, has launched an inte grated plan. Specifically, the plan is for first year children and in all high school grades. Other school districts that have varying forms of integration are: Rose Hill-Minquadale, near Wil mington; Conrad High School, also near Wilmington; Delaware City, 14 miles from Wilmington; Alfred I. du- Pont School, near Wilmington. The Dover Board of Education— the state’s capital and the most southern town in Delaware to under take any kind of integration, has been given permission to try a lim ited plan. This involves admitting Negro sudents who graduated in June from the Negro elementary school to what is known as the aca demic course in the Dover High School. However, these students will first have to undergo what are known as “placement tests” given to all eighth grade pupils in the Dover Commun ity School before they make the final selection of their high school courses. These tests are to be administered by the principal of the Negro school who is a Negro. Dover has a typical example of the problem of school administration in volved in the process of integration. The Negro and white schools in Do ver are administered by a board of education. But there is also in Dover a brand new comprehensive high school, built for Negroes with a Negro faculty and administered by a board separate from the Dover Board of Education. When complete integration takes place, this new school, built for Ne groes, may have to be taken into the Dover school district as part of the schools in the regular administrative area. THE BACKGROUND Here is the background on the Delaware story: With an equal but separate public school system provided in its consti tution adopted in 1897, Delaware en tered segregation litigation in 1950 when the right of the University of Delaware (a state college) to bar Negro students from its undergradu ate schools was questioned in the Court of Chancery. Chancellor Collins J. Seitz decided in favor of Negro litigants and the trustees of the University of Dela ware declined to take any appeal. So the entire university was opened to Negroes without any distinction as to classroom participation or dormi tory privileges. Next came the public school case, known as Belton v. Gebhart, Bulah v. Gebhart. It was also heard before Chancellor Seitz and involved one Negro child who wanted to attend a white elementary school in the vil lage of Hockessin and eight Negro students who wanted to attend the Claymont High School. The complaint was twofold: (1) that state-imposed segregation in ed ucation was in itself a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution; (2) that the fa cilities and opportunities offered the plaintiffs in Negro schools were in ferior to those available to white stu dents living in the same districts. The chancellor decided that the Negro facilities were inferior and that until such time as the facilities were brought up to the equal of the white schools, the Negro children in those districts could attend the white schools. The chancellor did not allow that there should be time for bring ing the Negro schools up to equality but that immediate relief should be offered the Negro students. The state of Delaware, represented by Atty. Gen. H. Albert Young, act ing on behalf of the defendant school districts and the State Board of Edu cation, took an appeal to the State Supreme Court which upheld the Court of Chancery on the basis of inequality in facilities but refrained from even touching on the subject of segregation per se. The State Supreme Court declared that the Negro children did not have to wait until their schools were brought up to parity with the white schools. The attorney general decided to appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court on the grounds that a reasonable time should be allowed for equalization. However, pending the appeal and de cision of the U. S. Supreme Court, the State Board of Education, after much flurry in the newspapers, de cided to allow the plaintiffs to attend the white schools to which they had sought admission. However, this decision applied only to the white schools actually involved in the litigation, although the trus tees of a little country school near Wilmington decided to take advan tage of the situation and admit three Negro children despite frowns on the part of the State Board of Education. ADMINISTRATIVE PROBLEMS But now that the U. S. Supreme Court has handed down its opinion on segregation in and of itself and has wiped out the “separate but equal” basis for state-imposed seg regation, there are a number of im portant administrative problems fac ing Delaware. The State Board of Education is the top educational policy making agency in the state. Under it comes the State Department of Public In struction, headed by the state super intendent, Dr. George R. Miller Jr., with headquarters in the state’s cap ital, Dover. There are actually three types of school districts in Delaware: Wilmington is virtually a “special special school district” with consid erable autonomy. The Wilmington school district is not under the juris diction of the State Board of Educa tion although the Wilmington Board of Education did ask permission of the State Board of Education before it proceeded on its plan of integra tion. Special school districts are usually large districts with high schools. The trustees or boards of education of special school districts have a certain amount of autonomy, but their pow ers must be exercised in conformity with the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education. State unit schools come directly under the State Department of Pub lic Instruction. The school trustees here do not set any educational pol icy as do the boards in the special districts. In Delaware there are 106 school districts, including Wilmington, and also what are known as high school area districts. The bulk of the money for public instruction in Delaware comes from the General Assembly to all the schools through the State Board of Education. Money is allocated to the schools on what is known as the per pupil unit system. However, special school districts through local taxes can implement the funds received from the state. Generally, all schools in the state are built on a basis of state-local dis trict participation, but all Negro schools have been built by 100 per cent state appropriation. BOUNDARIES CONFUSED There is no clearly drawn pattern of boundary lines between what are Negro school districts in Delaware and white school districts. In Wil mington, for example, all public schools, Negro and white, are ad ministered by the Wilmington Board of Education; however, in Dover, the state’s capital, the board of educa tion there administers white and Ne gro schools but there is also a re cently constructed comprehensive high school in Dover which is admin istered by a separate board. In Delaware, there are 29 Negro school districts in areas that draw children for a single white school dis trict. There are also 13 Negro school dis tricts in areas that contain two or more white school districts. And there are 12 Negro schools in special districts administered by one board for both white and Negro schools. Hence, when the General Assem bly of Delaware meets early next year, legislation will be submitted to merge at least 42 Negro districts with the nearest administrative white school district in order to affect a general integration plan. SCHOOL STATISTICS According to the 1953 annual re port of the State Board of Education, there were 2,287 teachers and profes sional employes in the public schools of the state, including 1,914 white teachers and principals and 355 Ne gro teachers and principals. In Delaware, there is no distinction as to pay. The schedules are the same for Negro as well as white teachers and principals. The standards for teacher certificates are the same. For the school year of 1952-53, the total state funds made available to the school districts was $20,752,757. This included $6,924,187 for the school building program and $13,828,- ■569 for current operations. The 1952-53 report of the State Board of Education shows that 52,724 children were enrolled in the schools of the state, not including kindergar tens. The percentage breakdown for that year follows: Elementary schools: 81.1 per cent of the children in these schools were white and 18.9 per cent were Negroes. Secondary schools: 85 per cent of the children in these schools were white and 15 per cent were Negro. On the over-all basis, the break down was: White: 43,552; Negro 9,172. In January of 1954, the total picture was: White: 44,395; Negro: 9,360. The per capita current expenses in day schools based upon average en rollment were: 1952-53—$300.01; 1951-52—$276.48; 1950-51 — $248.57; 1949-50 — $234.22; 1948-49—$198.46.