MILLIKEN v. BRADLEY
A suit charging that the Detroit, Michigan public school system was racially segregated as a result of official policies was filed against Governor Milliken. After reviewing the case and concluding the system was segregated, a district court ordered the adoption of a desegregation plan that encompassed eighty-five outlying school districts. The lower court found that Detroit-only plans were inadequate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the metropolitan plan. This case was decided together with Allen Park Public Schools v. Bradley and Grosse Point Public School System v. Bradley.
Did federal courts have the authority to impose a multi-district desegregation plan on schools outside the Detroit area?
Legal provision: Equal Protection
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that "[w]ith no showing of significant violation by the 53 outlying school districts and no evidence of any interdistrict violation or effect," the district court's remedy was "wholly impermissible" and not justified by Brown v. Board of Education. The Court noted that desegregation, "in the sense of dismantling a dual school system," did not require "any particular racial balance in each 'school, grade or classroom.'" The Court also emphasized the importance of local control over the operation of schools.