Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1; 91 S. Ct. 1267; 28 L. Ed. 2d 554 (1971)

Facts—The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system encompasses the city of Charlotte and surrounding Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Two-thirds of the African American students in the system attended schools that were either totally black or more than 99 percent black. The federal District Court ordered the school authorities to carry out a plan for desegregation of the schools that involved bus transportation of pupils in order to bring about integration.

Question—Does the District Court have the power to order a county-wide school busing plan to promote racial desegregation?


ReasonsC.J. Burger (9–0). The Court had previously held that school authorities have the duty to take affirmative action to bring about desegregation. When the school authorities do not carry out this obligation to remedy violations of the equal protection guarantee, the District Court has broad equitable power to fashion a remedy that will assure a unitary school system. School authorities may be required to employ bus transportation as one tool of school desegregation. There is no requirement that every school in every community reflect the racial composition of the school system as a whole, but a District Court, again as part of its equitable remedial discretion, may make use of mathematical ratios. The burden is on the school authorities to satisfy the Court that their racial composition is not the result of present or past discriminatory action.

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