DATE OF EVENT: Saturday, June 11, 1949
DATE PUBLISHED: Sunday, June 12, 1949, in The Kansas City Star
Editor’s note: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 1949 that School District No. 90 in Johnson County could not operate separate schools for black and white students. The court said that the district had the power to define attendance areas, but that they must not be defined only by racial lines. This decision anticipated the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which outlawed school segregation nationwide.
The South Park grade school of school district No. 90 in Johnson County, Kansas, must admit all students of the district, white and Negro, under a ruling yesterday by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The court granted a writ of mandamus brought by four Negro families, residents of the district, to compel the district to admit their children to the school, in the following words:
“The court regards the present action of the school board as arbitrary and unreasonable and an attempt by subterfuge to bring about segregation which the statutes of the state do not permit.”
The district has operated two schools, South Park, on U.S. Highway No. 169 one mile north of Merriam, and the Walker school, about three-fourths of a mile southwest of South Park. There have been about fifty-one Negro students in the Walker school and about 200 white students in South Park, where a new $90,000 building was constructed two years ago. …
The court ruled the district has the power to establish two schools and to designate areas of attendance for each. However, the court added, the designation of areas must be on a reasonable basis and the two schools must have comparable facilities and standards.
The court ordered all pupils in the district to be allowed to attend South Park school starting with the next school year and be permitted to continue there until any other building in the district is brought up to the required standard.
Plaintiff lawyer Elisha Scott said there was no discord on any issue except that the Negro parents felt they were paying the same taxes as anyone else and were convinced their children were entitled to facilities as good as those provided in the new Park school.
At the Walker school, Scott said, there were only two teachers for all classes; no kindergarten and no telephone, and only outdoor sanitary facilities.
“I doubt whether the action would have been filed if the Negro pupils had had a good building, comparable to the white pupils,” Scott said.
Bradley and Jones said the school board had adopted a budget in an effort to bring the Walker school up to standard.
Separate schools for Negro and white children are operated satisfactorily in some parts of Kansas, educators pointed out last night. F.L. Schlagle, superintendent of schools in Kansas City, Kansas, said that cities of the first class in Kansas are permitted by law to have separate schools for Negroes in the first eight grades as long as those institutions provide equal opportunities and training facilities. Cities in the first class are those of approximately 15,000 population or more.
Negro students go to separate elementary schools in Kansas City, Kansas, but elsewhere in Wyandotte County the Negroes and white children attend the same elementary institutions. However, the Negroes go exclusively to Sumner high school, the white high school students attending Wyandotte, Rosedale and Argentine high schools. Ward high school, a parochial institution, is attended by both Negro and white students.
Kansas City, Kansas, is the only city in the state with a separate high school for Negroes, and this was authorized by a special statute.
Sumner high school also receives Negro students from the Washington and Turner rural high schools in Wyandotte County. Fifteen Negroes in the Shawnee-Mission high school district in Johnson County also go to Sumner. There are no Negro students in the Shawnee-Mission high school; however, the law would entitle the Negroes to attend this school if they desired to do so. …
A.F. Throckmorton, Kansas superintendent of public instruction, said there is no county where segregation is practiced although he pointed out that separate facilities are maintained in some of the larger cities of the state.