The Supreme Court yesterday refused to review a judge's order that put racially torn South Boston High School into temporary receivership ofter conventional enforcement of desegregation decrees had failed.
The court action - taken without comment or recorded dissent - is a victory for black parents and children over the Boston School Committee, the elected body that runs the city's public school system.
U.S. District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. issued the order in December, 1975, after ruling that blacks at South Boston High were continuing to suffer physical threats, verbal abuse and other hostile conduct and discrimination in defiance of desegration orders.
Granting a motion by black plaintiffs, Garrity ordered an unusual form of relief: removing the elected Boston School Committee from control of South Boston High and substituting - for that school only - a temporary receivership in matters affecting desegregation.
The first receiver was an assistant superintendent of schools; the second was the superintendent of the entire 157-school system. Each became accountable directly to Garrity rather than to the school committee for implementing desegragation at South Boston High.
As a result, the judge sometimes had to deal with trivia, such as ordering the purchase of tennis balls and specifying a brand of basketballs. Some critics seized on this as an example of unwarranted intrusion by the judiciary into the daily lives of Americans.
Defenders disagreed, saying that Garrity had to go the receivership route because presistent defiance of his desegregation plan was confronting black students with "a grave threat" to their safety and rights. And, they argued, the nature of receivership is such that, once Garrity adopted it, he was forced to enmesh himself in detail.
The school committee appealed the receivership order. Last August, however, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Garrity and said that receivership did not go "beyond what reasonably might be considered necessary."
He faced "ectraordinarily difficult and troubled circumstances," the appellate court held. He "had reason to fear that even direct orders" to the school committee would be met "by resistance, subterfuge or, at very lest, delay."
In other action:
In a possibly troubling development for the Justice Department's efforts to end employment discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the court agreed to review a decision upholding the department against the Hazelwood School District in suburban St. Louis.
The department had sued the district in 1973, charging that in hiring teachers it persisted in discriminating against blacks, some of whom were better qualified that whites. In a faculty of 1,231 only 22 were black. This was only about one-eighth the ratio for the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County combined, the department said.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the department had not established a sufficient statistical disparity to prove bias in hiring. But last April the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Hazelwood's hiring patterns and procedures buttressed statistical evidence of discrimination.
In seeking review, Hazelwood claimed that the government was required, but failed, to prove an intent to discriminate. The department, rejecting the claim, said it produced ample evidence, not limited to statistics, of discriminatory purpose and effect.
FREE PRESS VS. PRICACY
In a case involving a "human cannonball," the court agreed to review a decision assigning a higher value to freedom of the press than to a performer's right to control publicity about his act at a county fair.
Over the protest of the performer, Hugo Zacchini, a television cameraman videotaped his act, in which he was shot from a cannon into a net about 200 feet away. Cleveland TV station WEWS then ran the tape - lasting 15 seconds - on a nightly news program.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in July that state law entitles Zacchini to exclusive control over publicity about his performance, but that this control must yield to the "broad latitude" that press must have "to freely report matters of public interest . . ."
In 1973 the court eased the burden of proof for prosecutors in obscenity cases but said they must act under laws that specify clearly what sexual conduct can be portrayed or forbidden. Yesterday the court agreed to decided whether Illinois - and by implication other states with similar laws - have met the high court's standards of clarity.
AID TO RELIGION
The court agreed to decide whether Ohio's latest attempt to provide aid to parochial schools in constitutional or, as the American Civil Liberties Union charges, an "end run" around previous rulings forbidding undue entanglements between church and state.
In an action affecting possibly hundreds of thousands of World War II veterans reaching retirement age, the court agreed to decided whether private companies computing pension benefits must credit military service. Various appellate courts have ruled differently.
The court allowed a Washington State law aimed at prevention of oil spills to remain in effect until it disposes of an appeal from a decision by a three-judge panel invalidating the law. The law bans supertankers of more than 125,000 tons from Puget Sound and regulates tankers of more than 40,000 tons.