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Supreme Court: School districts’ use of race-based placement unlawful

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, June 28th, 2007 at 10:56 am in lawsuits.

The Supreme Court issued a landmark decision this morning against the voluntary racial integration practices in the Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky. school districts. It could affect the way students across the country, including in Berkeley, are assigned to schools.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court agreed with the plaintiffs — parents who argued that the practice of using race violated their 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

“The school districts have not carried their heavy burden of showing
that the interest they seek to achieve justifies the extreme means
they have chosen — discriminating among individual students based
on race by relying upon racial classifications in making school assignments.”

The dissenting justices countered that the decision violates the intent of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case.

  • The Seattle district, which had never been under a desegregation order, classified students as either white and nonwhite, and used race as a tie-breaker when determining which students would attend certain high schools.
  • The Jefferson County district had a desegregation order, which was dissolved in 2000. In 2001, they began to consider race (students were either considered black or “other”) to determine some elementary school placements.

The ruling could have an impact in Berkeley, which uses race as one of many factors in placing students at schools. But Maya Harris, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California, says she thinks Berkeley’s model would be supported by the majority of the Supreme Court because five of the justices supported the idea of certain race-conscious measures to achieve diversity.

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  • John W.

    This sets a dangerous precedence that could result in more children having to attend their neighborhood schools! Just because someone pays an outrageous mortage and annual property tax doesn’t mean he or she or they should expect that their children have the right to attend their expensive neighborhood schools. Ideological mandates are under attack! A skunk has been released at the “diversity celebration.”