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Simmons v. Steiner

Court of Chancery of Delaware, Sussex County

October 14, 1954

Lillian SIMMONS et al.
v.
Edmund F. STEINER et al. Lillian Simmons, an infant, by her Guardian ad litem, Perry A. Reese, Madeline Staten, an infant, by her Guardian ad litem, Elenora Staten, Annie Ruth Thompson, an infant, by her Guardian ad litem, Cassie Lee Thompson, Edna Turner, an infant, by her Guardian ad litem, Millicent Turner, Irene Pettyjohn, an infant, by her Guardian ad litem, Naomi Waples, Charles Fleming, Jr., an infant, by his Guardian ad litem, Charles Fleming, Sr. Kenneth Baynard, an infant, by his Guardian ad litem, Garland Baynard, Orlando Camp, an infant, by his Guardian ad litem, Gertrude C. Pennewell, Eugene Harris, an infant, by his Guardian ad litem, Thomas Harris, Ronald Vann, an infant, by his Guardian ad litem, Catherine Vann, Perry A. Reese, Elenora Staten, Cassie Lee Thompson, Millicent Turner, Charles Fleming, Sr., Garland Baynard, Gertrude C. Pennewell, Thomas Harris, Catherine Vann, and Naomi Waples, Plaintiffs,
v.
Edmund F. Steiner, George F. Adams, David B. Greene, George Robbins, Members of the Board of Education of the Milford Special School District, Ramon C. Cobbs, Superintendent of the Milford Special School District, and M. Alexander Galsmire, Defendants.

Negro students brought suit against members of Board of Education to restrain them from denying Negroes their vested rights to attend high school. The Court of Chancery, Marvel, Vice Chancellor, held that where the United States Supreme Court entered decision declaring that all persons had the unqualified right to a public school education in which consideration of race played no part, but withheld entry of decrees pending further proceedings on methods of implementing the decision, Negro students, who were enrolled in high school, but whose names were later withdrawn because they were Negroes, were not required to wait for decrees in the cases decided by the United States Supreme Court as a prerequisite to injunctive relief to restrain members of Board of Education from denying to Negroes their vested right to attend the high school.

Injunction granted.

Page 174

[34 Del.Ch. 594] Louis L. Redding, Wilmington, for plaintiffs.

Howard E. Lynch, Jr., Dover, for defendants.

H. Albert Young, Atty. Gen., appearing amicus curiae by leave of Court.

MARVEL, Vice Chancellor.

Plaintiffs[1] live in the Milford Special School District where defendants operate one public high school, which is maintained by general funds of the State of Delaware supplemented by taxes levied against real estate in the district.

It is alleged in the complaint and it is a conceded fact that plaintiffs applied for admission to the Milford High School at the beginning of the present autumn term and were enrolled as students by agents and representatives of the then duly constituted Board of Education of the district.[2]

[34 Del.Ch. 595] It is further alleged and admitted by defendants that on September 30, 1954, the present Board of Education of Milford, through its president, Edmund F. Steiner, took action withdrawing plaintiffs' names from the records of Milford High School. Notice of such action was sent to the parents or guardians of the plaintiffs all of whom are parties to this action.

It is conceded that plaintiffs' names were removed from the records of Milford High School solely because of color and race, and that plaintiffs have no administrative or adequate legal remedy available to correct this asserted wrong. The allegations

Page 175

of the complaint establish a case within the jurisdiction of this Court.

The complaint alleges that the exclusion of plaintiffs from the only public high school in the district in which they live constitutes a violation of their rights to equal protection of the laws and to due process of law. It is also asserted by plaintiffs that separate facilities for education near Milford are not equal to those afforded by Milford High School and that as yet the State Board of Education has not sought to transfer plaintiffs to another school outside of their school district. Evidence of the existence and nature of separate facilities will be considered only on final hearing if such is ordered.

In the cases consolidated for decision in Brown v. Board of Education,347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, it was decided that the placing of children in separate schools on a racial basis even where physical and other ‘ tangible’ factors of the separate schools are equal, deprives the children of the minority race of equal educational opportunities and is in ...


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