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Piscataway Township Board of Education v. Burke

Decided: April 17, 1978.

PISCATAWAY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION, APPELLANT,
v.
FRED G. BURKE, COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT



On appeal from the State Department of Education.

Lora, Seidman and Milmed. The opinion of the court was delivered by Milmed, J.A.D.

Milmed

The Piscataway Township Board of Education (local board) appeals from (1) the action of the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) requiring it to submit, by August 1, 1977, "an approved plan for racial balance" in the Piscataway public schools, and (2) "a January, 1970, rule of the Commissioner defining racial imbalance." The local board's single overall contention is that "[c]ompulsory racial balance as defined by respondent [Commissioner] is contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

It appears that in January 1970 the State Department of Education (Department) promulgated the following definition of "Racial Imbalance":

Our working definition is that each district strive to establish school attendance areas that make possible wherever feasible a student body that represents a cross section of the population of the entire district.

If in the elementary grades, for example, the minority population is 25 percent, then each building and each class should try to reflect this percentage as is feasible.

The 1976-77 minority pupil enrollment in the Piscataway school system was about 21% of total enrollment. During

the same period, the minority student percentage of total school enrollment at three of the elementary schools was: Arbor school, about 46%; New Market school, about 5%; and Grandview school, about 10%.*fn1

In June 1976 the local board submitted to the Commissioner "A Plan for Desegregating the Piscataway Township Schools" which included "a voluntary 'Magnet School' program for academically talented fourth and fifth graders" at the Arbor School during the school year 1976-77. Students from outside the attendance area of the school were encouraged but not required to enroll. Similar programs were contemplated for the New Market and Grandview schools during the next two school years. However, voluntary participation in the program at the Arbor school was less than anticipated. The Commissioner then wrote to the superintendent of schools in Piscataway stating, in part, that in order for his office to complete the review of the Piscataway school desegregation plan "to determine its acceptability," it would be necessary that there be forwarded:

A pupil mobility plan that could be implemented for September 1977 in the event that the selected voluntary Magnet school plan for gifted children at Arbor School is not feasible in its design to correct racial imbalance.

The date fixed for submission of this "pupil mobility plan"*fn2 was April 30, 1977. However, the Magnet school project was not continued for the ...


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