Thursday, June 28, 2007

say bye bye to school diversity

We are now seeing one Supreme Court ruling after another that flies in the face of civil rights, social justice, and democracy. Today, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court imposed new limits on public school desegregation plans, thus making it more difficult for school districts to ensure racially integrated schools.

As Hispanic Business News reported:

A closely divided Supreme Court on Thursday narrowed the ability of public school districts to use race in assigning students to schools.

Affirmative action in education survives but with tighter restrictions following the decisions in two related cases from Kentucky and Washington. Districts in Louisville and Seattle, hoping to maintain diversity, considered race when deciding what schools students can attend.

"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," Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for a 5-4 majority.

Roberts failed, however, to persuade five justices to go further and dismiss completely the merits of what he termed "racial balancing."

[. . . ] Washington's Seattle School District No. 1 allowed entering ninth-graders to choose the high school they wanted. Some schools proved more popular than others.

About 60 percent of the school district's 46,000 students were Asian, African-American, Latino or Native American. District officials said they considered race as a "tie-breaker" when assigning students, so that neighborhood schools wouldn't be segregated.

The policy meant some white students couldn't get into the very popular Ballard and Hale high schools in north Seattle.

Kentucky's Jefferson County Public Schools cover a broader area, educating some 97,000 students in the Louisville area. About one-third of the students are African-American.

Unlike Seattle schools, the Jefferson County schools had also formerly been segregated. The district tried to maintain a minimum African-American enrollment of 15 percent at each of its schools, and in doing so officials refused a white student's request to be assigned to a particular school.

[. . . ] "Together, these decisions will put an end to public schools using race as a factor to decide where children can attend public school, something that many thought was put to rest (previously)," said Sharon L. Browne, an attorney with the conservative Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation.

From the other side, 19 former chancellors of the University of California argued in an amicus brief that "racially integrated public schools strengthen the fabric of our diverse democracy."

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