MANJARES v. NEWTON

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District Court of Appeal, First District, Division 3, California.

Robert MANJARES et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. Dr. Robert E. NEWTON, etc., et al., Defendants and Appellants.

Civ. 22303.

Decided: May 10, 1965

Richard H. Perry, San Francisco, William H. Stoffers, County Counsel of County of Monterey, allan L. Nicholson, Deputy County Counsel, Salinas, for appellants. Heisler & Stewart, Francis Heisler, Charles A. Stewart, Carmel, for respondents.

Plaintiffs Manjares, on behalf of their 7 children, and plaintiffs Wallace, for their 3 children, sought writ of mandate compelling defendants, as members of the Board of Education of Carmel Unified School District, to resume school bus service to their homes.

In September 1963, the Manjares family moved to the Paloma Creek area of Monterey County. They live near the southeast corner of defendant district, some 30 miles from the junior high school and slightly less than half that distance from the elementary school. For an unspecified part of the preceding school year, the district had furnished bus transportation to a nearby family, but there is evidence that this family had been notified that transportation would not be furnished in 1963–4. Service, however, was resumed shortly after opening of school in September. The Manjares children were transported until November 4, 1963, when the service was terminated. Thereafter the bus ran only to a point 6.2 miles from the Manjares home. Plaintiffs Wallace, who had moved into the area in 1963, joined with Mr. and Mrs. Manjares in requesting resumption of the service, although the Wallace children had attended school in another district during the fall.

The adult plaintiffs testified that it was difficult or impossible for them to transport their children 6.2 miles to the school bus terminus established by the District's reduced schedule. Thus, they maintain, they could not accept the District's offer to pay one of the parents for transporting the children to that point. Administrative employees of the District testified in detail to the cost of the extended service, and the hazards of the road stemming from its narrowness and its sharp turns. It was also pointed out that the District had in the past curtailed bus service for like reasons, and that to resume service to Paloma Creek would open the door to demands for service in other remote areas difficult of safe access.

Judgment directed issuance of peremptory writ of mandate requiring resumption of the bus service. Defendants appeal.

The statute (Ed.Code, § 16801) provides: ‘The governing board of any school district may provide, with the written approval of the county superintendent of schools, for the transportation of pupils to and from school whenever in the judgment of the board such transportation is advisible and good reasons exist therefor. The governing board may purchase or rent and provide for the upkeep, care, and operation of vehicles, or may contract and pay for the transportation of pupils to and from school by common carrier, or may contract with and pay responsible private parties for the transportation. Such contracts may be made with the parent or guardian of the pupil being transported.’

The language of the section makes abundantly clear that initiation of bus service is within the discretion of the school board, which ‘may’ provide service ‘whenever in [its] judgment’ such transportation ‘is advisable and good reasons exist therefor.’ It is true that a district which does supply public transportation assumes a duty to supply a reasonably safe system (Raymond v. Paradise Unified School Dist., 218 Cal.App.2d 1, 9, 31 Cal.Rptr. 847). But it does not follow that a district providing service cannot cease to do so. Provision of transportation to school does not require similar service from school to home (Girard v. Monrovia City School Dist., 121 Cal.App.2d 737, 743, 264 P.2d 115). Nor does the statute specifically restrict the right of the district board to terminate such service. The rational construction seems to be that the entire matter of transportation of students lies within the reasonable discretion of the board.

The courts will interfere with the action of a school board, within the limits of its statutory grant of power, only when its exercise of discretion has been arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory (Arthur v. Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College Dist., 216 Cal.App.2d 656, 31 Cal.Rptr. 177). The trial court found that such an abuse of discretion had occurred here.

But such a finding is not supported if there appears to be ‘some reasonable basis' for the board's action, or if reasonable minds may differ as to its wisdom (Rible v. Hughes, 24 Cal.2d 437, 445, 150 P.2d 455, 154 A.L.R. 137). The evidence here does not meet that test.

There is testimony that reasons of safety, economy and policy support the board's decision. The contrary evidence, given its utmost effect, shows only that there may be some basis for contrary conclusions on these questions. But under the statute, the decision is for the board, and not the courts. At most, the wisdom of the board's decision is reasonably debatable. That is not enough to warrant the finding here made (see Lockard v. City of Los Angeles,33 Cal.2d 453, 461–462, 202 P.2d 38, 7 A.L.R.2d 990).

We do not accept appellants' contention that any exercise of the board's discretion, however motivated, is beyond court review. We do hold that there is no evidence here to support the finding of abuse of discretion.

Judgment reversed, with directions to enter judgment for defendants.

DRAPER, Presiding Justice.

SALSMAN and DEVINE, JJ., concur.