Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Recent Developments

First Page



In the recent decision of Bradley v. School Board, a Virginia federal court ordered the consolidation of the predominantly black Richmond school district with the surrounding all-white suburban school districts of Henrico and Chesterfield Counties. This decision marks the first time that a court has consolidated two or more autonomous school districts for the purpose of achieving a racial balance in the schools that reflects the racial composition of the consolidated areas as a whole. While Judge Merhige in Bradley punctiliously followed the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and its earlier desegregation cases, his decision, which called for the busing of suburban children to inner city schools, was a primary factor contributing to the storm of national protest against the use of busing to achieve racial balance. The implications of this controversy are grave. It could lead to serious conflict between public opinion and the will of Congress on the one hand and the duty of federal courts to uphold the Constitution on the other. Focusing on the Bradley decision, this comment will review the major Supreme Court decisions setting forth the constitutional standards for dismantling dual school systems. The Bradley court's use of this authority in reaching the controversial school consolidation order will be discussed in detail and the decision will be analyzed both in terms of the soundness of legal reasoning and the validity of its basic policy premises.