Pupil Placement Law

The law was passed in the Special Session of the legislature in August 1956. The act created a Pupil Placement Board and invested it with the power to assign all pupils to schools in the state. The act "divested" the local school boards and division superintendents of the authority "now or at any future time to determine the school to which any child shall be admitted." The placement act would maintain all students in their current schools unless their transfer was approved by the state board. The board was authorized to make decisions based on several conditions that might be used to mask decisions based on race: including the effect of enrollment on all children in the school, the health of the child, the effect of educational disparity, the availability of facilities, the aptitude of the child, and "sociological, psychological, and like intangible social scientific factors." The purpose of the act was to prevent desegregation of any school in Virginia and was part of the massive resistance laws passed in the 1956 Special Session. Some supporters argued that the pupil placement plan would also work to delay integration by tying up the process of black student application to white schools in a long appeal process that would eventually move slowly through the state courts. Others who opposed it considered the plan too likely to lead to school closings. The Gray Commission, which had studied the issue earlier in 1955, had initially approved the statewide Pupil Placement Plan, but then voted 19-12 against it because it might permit a degree of integration in some localities.