Pupil Placement Board

The Pupil Placement Act passed in the Special Session of the legislature in August 1956 created the Pupil Placement Board. The three-person Board was appointed by the governor and oversaw all applications for transfer in the state. Governor Thomas B. Stanley appointed Hugh V. White superintendent of Nansemond County schools, Beverly H. Randolph, Jr. a lawyer from Charles City County, and Andrew A. Farley a Danville newspaper owner and Chair of the Democratic Committee for the 5th Congressional District. All three men resided in Southside Virginia, the predominately rural, heavily black region of the state with conservative white Democratic Party leadership. The Board's actions were immediately tested in the courts. Federal Judge Walter Hoffman in Norfolk held the Pupil Placement Act "unconstitutional on its face" and considered the Board a veiled attempt to segregate on the basis of race all students in the state. Other federal courts agreed and refused to even recognize the legitimacy of the state Pupil Placement Board. They consistently held local school boards responsible for following federal court orders regarding integration. However, after the federal and state courts struck down many of the massive resistance laws in January 1959, the State Board continued to operate and claim authority for assigning pupils statewide. This generated considerable confusion as local boards made decisions which the state Board claimed needed state approval. The Board became in 1959-1960 the only remaining pillar in Virginia's massive resistance program. In 1959 the legislature passed measures to create a "freedom of choice" approach for pupil assignment, allowing localities to manage the application process; however, the State Board's members refused to acknowledge the change. The Board's members resigned in protest over the new law in February 1960. A few months later the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the State Pupil Placement Board illegal and unconstitutional. The State Board had refused to follow local school board recommendations for integrated pupil assignments in Norfolk, and its members admitted under testimony that they could think of no situation in which a black child would be assigned to a white school. Over the three years of its existence, the State Board members had decided 450,000 pupil placement applications and never allowed a black child to be assigned to a white school. The Board continued to operate even though localities made pupil assignment decisions. The Board approved a transfer of black students to a white school for the first time in July 1960. After 1960 as Virginia assigned pupils under "freedom of choice," the State Board approved the localities assignment plans routinely.