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News about Supreme Court Case:  Use of Race in Elementary and High Schools

Equal Treatment Regardless of Race
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Seattle & Jefferson County Boards of Education

June 2006 News Coverage
Web Posted June 6, 2006

June 28, 2007
BACK: June 28, 2007 Supreme Court Decision
Supreme Court Decision

Factoid:   In 2001 the Seattle schools denied 210 white students their first choice of a high school because of their race.

Judges opposing Seattle's race-based assignments cited this passage from a report co-authored by George Mason University social scientist David Armor:

"... racial composition by itself has little effect on raising the achievement of minority students or on reducing the minority-white achievement gap. Some studies show that there is no relationship at all between black achievement and racial composition ... and other studies show that there is no relationship between the black-white achievement gap and racial composition."

SEE USA Today story, immediately below.


It's Discrimination.  It's Wrong.

Excerpts from the USA Today commentary 06-18-06 by Sharon L. Browne of the Pacific Legal Foundation

          "When Crystal Meredith of Louisville tried to enroll her young son in Bloom Elementary School, she was told he couldn't transfer out of Young Elementary, the school where he was already assigned.

          "Why?  Not because of his grades or interests. It was because he is white. As a federal district court later recounted the facts, he 'was denied admittance because his transfer to Bloom would have had an adverse effect on Young's racial composition.'

          "Did this happen in 1950, when students were routinely barred from certain schools on grounds of skin color?  No, it was 2002.  Called 'managed choice,' the race-based policy is the district's attempt to achieve the so-called 'right" racial balance of students, ensuring that schools have at least 15% African-American students and no more than 50% African-American students.

          "Not surprisingly, Ms. Meredith objected to her son being turned away from a public school because of his skin color.  She filed suit, arguing that he had been denied his equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

          "This month, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a hopeful message when it agreed to hear this case and a similar one brought by Seattle parents, setting the stage for a decision on the constitutionality of these practices.

          "Some say these race-based policies are about diversity.  They're not.  They amount to blatant and illegal racial discrimination.

          "Sadly, Louisville and Seattle school administrators aren't alone.  Nearly 1,000 school districts today are using race-based policies to assign students.

          "Supporters of these policies say that getting a balance of different races in each school can help the academic performance of minority kids. That claim is questionable.

          "Judges opposing Seattle's race-based assignments cited this passage from a report co-authored by George Mason University social scientist David Armor: '... racial composition by itself has little effect on raising the achievement of minority students or on reducing the minority-white achievement gap.  Some studies show that there is no relationship at all between black achievement and racial composition ... and other studies show that there is no relationship between the black-white achievement gap and racial composition.'

          "The high court's decision to take these cases is particularly important since lower courts have misapplied prior decisions involving higher education institutions, using those rulings to wrongly justify discriminatory practices in K-12 public schools.

          "The court has repeatedly made a clear distinction between universities and their academic freedom to exchange ideas and K-12 public schools where students are required to attend. Further, the court has said that race cannot be the sole factor in categorizing students, yet the Louisville and Seattle K-12 schools have used race mechanically.

          "In 2003, the Supreme Court rejected the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions point formula that was even less racially focused than the systems in Louisville and Seattle, where students have been assigned to schools solely based on their color.

          "More than 50 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, our nation's justices can put an end to government-ordered discrimination policies.

          "In 2006, decades after the civil rights movement, no one in America should be judged by skin color. That's a message that everyone, from school administrators to children, needs to hear."

Sharon L. Browne is a principal attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit, public-interest organization based in Sacramento that filed briefs in both cases before the Supreme Court.

-- Excerpts from from the USA Today commentary 06-18-06
by Sharon L. Browne of the Pacific Legal Foundation

Last Known Link:
USA Today 06-18-06


Grutter Redux

Excerpts from "The Committee for Justice Blog" June 5, 2006 Posted by Curt Levey

          "The Supreme Court's decision today to take up the issue of race-based school assignment, just three years after Justice O'Connor's disappointing opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, is good news for those of us who oppose the use of race in student selection.

          "The cases accepted – Parents Involved in Community Schools v . Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson City Board of Education – involve K-12 rather than Grutter's higher education context, and are unlikely to result in the overturning of Grutter's central holding that diversity is a 'compelling interest' that can justify racial admissions preferences.

          "It's too soon for such an abrupt reversal and, besides, the race-based student assignment plans at issue can easily be struck down within the Grutter framework.  Nonetheless, today's cert grant likely signals that, with Alito replacing O'Connor, there are now five votes to 1) make it clear that the deferential treatment of racial preferences in Grutter was a one-time gift to affirmative action fans and 2) reign in the lower courts – such as the Ninth Circuit in Parents Involved and the Sixth Circuit in Meredith – that have interpreted Grutter as a virtual black check for the use of race in student selection.

          "Two years ago, I predicted that, despite Grutter's seeming 25-year blessing for the use of race in admissions, history would show that the decision was merely 'a temporary and limited reprieve for race-based admissions policies.'  I am hopeful that the Court's decisions next term in Parents Involved and Meredith will be the first step in the fulfillment of that prediction."

-- posted by Curt Levey at 11:31 PM 06-05-06
Last Known Link:
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The high court, race and education

Excerpts from the Washington Times editorial
June 7, 2006

          "On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear two cases that will have a profound impact on the use of race in admissions to schools across the country. The first case, Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, is a challenge to a Kentucky school district's policy of requiring between 15 percent and 50 percent black enrollment in order to maintain a prescribed racial balance. The other case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, challenges a policy of using a racial guideline of 60 percent minority, 40 percent white when deciding which students to admit to an already filled school. Both cases were brought by parents whose children were excluded from their schools of choice because of the color of their skin.

          "The last Supreme Court rulings on the use of racial preferences in education, and the basis for the lower court rulings in both of these two cases, were the 2003 challenges to the University of Michigan affirmative action policies that resulted in underrepresented but lesser-qualified applicants receiving preferential treatment in admissions. While the court in Grutter v. Bollinger decided that racial diversity produces significant educational benefits, and presents a "compelling interest" to higher education, it nevertheless struck down the rigid and mechanical point system for undergraduate admission. That split provides the framework on which the policy in both cases was upheld. As the U.S. District Court in Kentucky noted, "the requirement that any use of race in a higher education admissions plan must further a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to meet that interest." Lower courts in both cases have ruled that the policies satisfied both requirements.

          "Working from the precedent established in its Michigan rulings, the Supreme Court must consider how the precedent applies to the distinctly different environments of kindergarten through high school, and the issue of whether such fixed percentages, which smack of the mechanical nature of the University of Michigan point system, are too broad to be considered "narrowly tailored." The implications of this decision will make these two of the most important cases the Roberts court will hear this fall.

          "Three unusual factors surround the Supreme Court's decision to hear the cases. The first is that there was no split in rulings from the lower courts. Second, the court considered both cases multiple times -- six times for the Seattle case and seven for the Kentucky case -- before accepting. And third, the court declined to hear a very similar case six months ago, before Samuel Alito joined the court. It's not clear whether these circumstances can be interpreted as a more conservative court's desire to overturn the lower court rulings, and trying to guess what the Supreme Court will do is always a fool's errand. But both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Alito strongly opposed the use of race as a factor in admission when they worked in the Reagan administration.

          "We hope they still do. With Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote in Grutter v. Bollinger, now retired, Justices Roberts and Alito may be poised to lead the court away from the race-based admissions policies that it enshrined in 2003."

-- Excerpted from the Washington Times Editorial 06-07-06
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Washington Times


Justices to Rule on Race and Education

Excerpts from the New York Times piece by David Stout June 5, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 5 — "The Supreme Court agreed today to consider an issue of enormous importance to parents and educators across the country: the extent to which public school administrators can use racial factors in assigning children to schools.

          "The court accepted cases from Seattle and Louisville, Ky., for its next term. The school districts in both cities defeated challenges to their [race-based] assignment procedures in the lower courts.

          " 'Looming in the background of this is the constitutionality of [race-based] affirmative action,' Davison Douglas, a law professor at William and Mary, said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'This is huge.'

          "The enormous interest in the issues raised by the cases accepted by the court has already been reflected in California, where parents of students in the Capistrano Unified School District sued the district last month, contending that in using race to determine school-attendance boundaries the school administrators are violating the state Constitution.

          "Arthur B. Mark 3rd, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the procedure amounts to 'racial gerrymandering,' and that the victims are 'students who are pulled from their local schools for no good reason.'  The foundation issued a statement today saying it was pleased that the justices will hear the Seattle and Louisville cases.

          "Seattle school administrators have wrestled for decades with the de facto segregation that tends to mirror the housing patterns of white, black and Asian families in the community. Students can pick among high schools. But since some schools have more applicants than they can handle, the district relies on tie-breakers, including whether a sibling attends a certain school, distance from a prospective student's home and race, to decide who gets into the over-subscribed schools. A group called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued in 2000, contending that it was unfair for the school district to consider race.

          "The plan was upheld by the Washington State Supreme Court, which found that it did not violate the state's Civil Rights Act, as its opponents argued.  But it was struck down by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — and then upheld by a 7-to-4 vote of that court, which overruled the smaller panel last October.

          "The seven judges in the majority concluded that the Seattle plan was narrowly enough tailored that it did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

          " 'We're pleased that the court has decided to hear these cases,' Sharon Browne, principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation said today.  'Together, these cases could put an end to schools using race as a factor to decide where children can attend school.'

          "Ms. Brown said more than 1,000 school districts in the United States consider race in assigning students to schools, and send them 'the wrong message' in doing so.  'Children should not be stereotyped by the color of their skin, but rather treated as individuals,' she said.  

          "The Kentucky case accepted by the Supreme Court today arises from a suit filed by Crystal Meredith, who contends that her son Joshua was not allowed into the neighborhood school because he is white.  The Jefferson County school district has a history different from Seattle's, in that the Louisville schools operated for years under a federal order to desegregate. In 2001, the district began using a plan that includes racial guidelines. The plan was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit."

-- Excerpted from the New York Times 06-05-06
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Another Swing at Affirmative Action

Excerpts from the Chronicle of Higher Ed article by Doug Lederman June 6, 2006

          "The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to hear a pair of cases dealing with the use of affirmative action in the public schools, which higher education legal experts agreed could give a newly configured (and more conservative) court the chance to review its 2003 ruling in two University of Michigan cases that allowed colleges to consider race in admitting students.

          "Lawyers with a range of perspectives on whether the Michigan cases were correctly decided agreed Monday that the Supreme Court is unlikely to significantly undermine its 2003 ruling [in the Michigan cases Gratz and Grutter] when the court takes up the elementary and secondary school cases in the term that begins next fall.

          "But they also agreed that a court from which Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the Michigan decision, has departed and that includes two new members who are thought to be skeptics of affirmative action could use the cases to directly or indirectly alter the court's stance. (Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has opposed racial preferences in the past, although he has not ruled in cases with a direct link to higher education; Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is widely seen as a conservative, although as a lawyer in private practice, he was involved in discussions about amicus briefs college groups filed in support of the University of Michigan.)

          "The Supreme Court's 2003 decisions in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the admissions policy used in Michigan's law school, and Gratz v. Bollinger, which struck down the policy used in Michigan's main undergraduate college, upheld the constitutionality of colleges' considering race in admitting students, but also set boundaries for its use.  Since then, opponents of affirmative action [i.e., race-based criteria such as preferences] have sought to use other federal court cases to narrow the definition of what practices are allowable, and which aren't, under the legal standards the Supreme Court laid out in its [2003] Michigan rulings.

         "The cases that the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District ( 05-908) and Meredith v. Jefferson City Board of Education (05-915), have nothing to do with higher education.  Both cases involve efforts by school districts to diversify their student bodies by taking race into account in deciding where to assign students.  In both cases (and a third, decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit involving a school district in Lynn, Mass.), federal appeals courts sided with the school districts, in part based on the Supreme Court's rulings in the Michigan cases. (In two of the three cases, those involving the Seattle and Massachusetts districts, the rulings were made by the full appeals courts ruling "en banc," after three-judge panels had sided with those who challenged the policies.)

          "But the fact that the three appeals courts all ultimately came out on the same side of the issue could bode badly for supporters of affirmative action.  The Supreme Court is likeliest to agree to hear cases when it has the chance to resolve a split of opinion among the federal districts, so the justices' decision to take the two affirmative action cases, which reached the same outcome, may suggest that they were itching to revisit the issue of race and education.

          "The two K-12 cases that the court has decided to review differ markedly from higher education cases.  First, while the justices leaned heavily on academic freedom and other First Amendment concerns in supporting the continued use of race in the Michigan cases, courts have not typically granted such consideration at the elementary and secondary level.  Second, Michigan (and the many higher education groups and other colleges that rallied to its defense) also justified the use of racial preferences in admissions by citing the [alleged and largely unproven] educational and other benefits that accrue to all students at an institution when students with many different viewpoints [not viewpoints but skin color.   Editor.] are represented. That issue was not raised in the public school cases.

          "Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which has repeatedly challenged the use of racial preferences in the courts and elsewhere, generally agreed with the view that a Supreme Court ruling in the Seattle and Louisville cases would not directly undermine the viability of the Michigan ruling in higher education.  But the case 'will provide some opportunity to see whether Roberts and Alito, in particular, like the Grutter and Gratz decisions,' he said.  'Justices can certainly signal their skepticism about those decisions by how broadly they interpret them.  It would be possible for the court to say that racial and ethnic preferences are subjected to the strictest of scrutiny, and that we're willing to defer to the expertise of university administrators in the higher education context where there are First Amendment concerns, but are unwilling to extend it beyond the narrow facts in those cases,' Clegg said.

          " 'That could signal that the court is not wild about these decisions. On the other hand, a decision that upheld the K-12 student assignments would be an extension of Grutter and Gratz, and it might be fairly well concluded that they might be happy to let those decisions alone.' "

-- Excerpted from the Chronicle of Higher Ed piece by Doug Lederman
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Supreme Court to Hear Schools Race Case

Excerpts from the Associated Press story by Gina Holland 06-05-06

WASHINGTON (AP) - "The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide the extent to which public schools can use race in deciding school assignments, setting the stage for a landmark affirmative action ruling.

          "Justices will hear appeals from a Seattle parents group and a Kentucky parent, ruling for the first time on diversity plans used by a host of school districts around the country.

          "Race cases have been difficult for the justices. The court's announcement that it will take up the cases this fall provides the first sign of an aggressiveness by the court under new Chief Justice John Roberts.

          "The court rejected a similar case in December when moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was still on the bench. The outcome of this case will turn on her successor, Samuel Alito.

          " 'Looming in the background of this is the constitutionality of affirmative action,' said Davison Douglas, a law professor at William and Mary. 'This is huge.'

          "Arguments will likely take place in November. The court's announcement followed six weeks of internal deliberations over whether to hear the appeals, an unusually long time.

          "In one of the cases, an appeals court had upheld Seattle's system, which lets students pick among high schools and then relies on tiebreakers, including race, to decide who gets into schools that have more applicants than openings.

          "The lower court decision was based in part on a Supreme Court ruling three years ago, written by O'Connor, which said that colleges and universities could select students based at least in part on race.

          "The court also will also consider a school desegregation policy in Kentucky. That case is somewhat different, because the school district had long been under a federal court decree to end segregation in its schools. After the decree ended, the district in 2001 began using a plan that includes race guidelines.

          "A federal judge had said system did not require quotas, and that other factors were considered including geographic boundaries and special programs.

          "A mother, Crystal Meredith, claimed her son was denied entrance into the neighborhood school because he is white. The Jefferson County school district, which covers metropolitan Louisville, Ky., and has nearly 100,000 students, was ordered to desegregate its schools in 1974.

          "The court will also consider whether Seattle's so-called integration tiebreaker system, which has been discontinued, is tailored to meet a "compelling interest" by the school.

          "A group called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued in July 2000, arguing that it was unfair for the school district to consider race, and Seattle halted the system.

          "Lawyers for the Seattle school district had told justices that it was not known what the district's new school board and new superintendent would do now.

          "Under the district's plan, the first tiebreaker was whether an applicant has a sibling already at the school. The second tiebreaker was race: which applicant would bring the high school closer to the districtwide ratio of whites to nonwhites, roughly 40 percent to 60 percent. The third tiebreaker was distance, with closer students getting preference.

          "Seattle has about 46,000 public-school students. The racial tiebreaker helped some whites get into predominantly minority schools, and vice versa.

          "The cases are Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, 05-908, and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 05-915.

-- Excerpted from the Associated Press Story by Gina Holland
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U.S. Supreme Court to tackle race issue

Excerpts from the Brigham Young University story by Amy Brennan 06-09-06

          "In an unexpected announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court recently said it plans to tackle measures designed to maintain racial balance in public schools later this year.

          "The two cases concerned, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, a case out of Kentucky, come from different parts of the country but hold a common thread.  Both appellants claim public schools implemented programs to achieve racial diversity that unjustly discriminated when selecting transfer students for acceptance.

          "Though the court's future decision is not expected to be reminiscent of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education that overturned laws allowing 'separate but equal' schools for blacks and whites, it could significantly impact the way race is dealt with in government policy.

          "But current policies to maintain rather than achieve racial balance in public schools will soon face the scrutiny of the nation's highest court.  The cases the court will hear stand at the crossroads of affirmative action and desegregation cases.

          "Teddy Gordon, a lawyer from Kentucky, is appealing earlier decisions that upheld the Jefferson County school system's method for creating racial balance in school.

          " 'Every child in Jefferson County public schools is being discriminated against when they apply for a school because they have to check off a box saying what race they are and nobody is getting a better education because of it,' said Honi Goldman, a spokeswoman for Gordon.

          "Gordon's argument will not be on the basis of reverse discrimination, but on equal protection for everyone under the 14th Amendment, Goldman said.

          "Melissa Smith, president of BYU's Black Student Union, said opportunities for everyone should be equal and based solely on work ethic, but right now, problems still exist.

          " 'You get areas that have a much higher black population or a much higher white population and something has to be done to create diversity,' she said.

          "The court, considered more conservative since Justice Samuel Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, turned down a chance to hear a related case in December."

-- Excerpts from the Brigham Young University story by Amy Brennan
Last Known Link:
newsnet.byu.edu


Seattle schools case could change national scene

Excerpts from the Seattle Times article June 6, 2006 (by The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times)

WASHINGTON -- "The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether skin color can be considered in assigning children to public schools, reopening the issue of affirmative action.

          "The justices said they would hear appeals from parents in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., who say it is unconstitutional for officials to consider a student's race when making school assignments. Both cities adopted voluntary integration programs in recent years that put limits on how many white or black students may be enrolled in some schools.

          "Monday's announcement also could signal a historic shift on the role of race in education. Just three years ago, the court upheld affirmative action in colleges and universities.

          "But the court's two new justices have criticized the use of race by the government.

          "The court banned racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

          "Justices will look at the modern-era classroom, no longer under court-desegregation orders but in some places still using remnants of those policies.

          "At its heart, the court will consider whether school leaders can promote racial diversity without violating the Constitution's guarantee against discrimination.

          "The court's announcement that it will take up the cases this fall provides the first sign of an aggressiveness by the court under new Chief Justice John Roberts. The court rejected a similar case in December when moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor still was on the bench. The outcome will likely turn on her successor, conservative Justice Samuel Alito.

          "Sharon Browne is a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif., which had urged the court to hear both cases.

          " 'The issue here is: Can public schools voluntary discriminate among students to achieve racial balance?' she said.   'They are teaching our kids that race still matters. If they can continue to do that, we will never get to a place where the country is color blind.'

          "Browne said as many as 1,000 school districts nationwide seek to integrate some schools by enrolling or not enrolling students based on their race.

          "Seattle has 10 comprehensive high schools, and it allows students to choose which one they want to attend. But if a school is 'over-subscribed' with too many students, officials put limits on who may enroll.

          "Students are given a preference in enrolling in a school if their brother or sister is attending the same school.  Under the part of the system that was halted, their race was described as another 'tie breaker.'

          "The district's integration plan had called for trying to maintain a racial balance.

          "In 2001, for example, 300 students were denied their first choice of a high school because of their race. Of these, 210 were white and 90 were minorities. The minorities include students who are black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian.

          "The Seattle plan has been tied up in litigation for years. Last October, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the plan and applauded the school system for achieving "racial diversity" despite the city's segregated housing patterns.

          "Louisville, unlike Seattle, had a history of official racial segregation. In 1975, it was ordered to bus students to achieve desegregation, but that court order ended in 2000. A year later, it adopted a voluntary integration plan that seeks a black enrollment of at least 15 percent and no more than 50 percent in each school.

          "Crystal Meredith, a white [Louisville] parent, challenged the plan, charging that it violated her son's rights because he was blocked from attending his neighborhood elementary school because it had too many white students.

          "But a federal judge and the U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the integration plan.

          "The Supreme Court said it will hear both cases in the fall. They are Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education."

-- Excerpted from the Seattle Times article 06-06-06
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Justices take cases on race-based enrollment
But Prop. 209 means California schools likely to be unaffected

Excerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle story by Bob Egelko and Heather Knight
Tuesday, June 6, 2006

          "The U.S. Supreme Court returned to the incendiary issue of race in public schools Monday, agreeing to decide two cases that have the potential to affect student enrollment in every state except -- according to most legal analysts -- California.

          "The justices granted review of appeals by white parents challenging programs in Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky., that take race into account to achieve or preserve desegregated schools. The cases, to be heard this fall, give the court's increasingly conservative majority a chance to narrow -- perhaps even overturn -- a 2003 ruling allowing limited use of race-based affirmative action in higher education.

          "In the 2003 case, a 5-4 majority led by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the University of Michigan law school could take applicants' race into account as one factor among many to promote diversity.

          "According to one group opposed to affirmative action, more than 1,000 school districts in the United States have race-based admissions, two-thirds of them voluntary measures not ordered by any court.

          " 'You've got a school district stepping in and saying, 'Your child isn't the right race, so you can't send your child to the school of your choice,' ' said attorney Russ Brooks of the Pacific Legal Foundation. He said the court's rationales for allowing racial considerations in 2003 -- to promote diversity in classroom viewpoints and in the legal profession -- shouldn't apply to children in public schools.

          "Regardless of the ruling, however, opponents of racial considerations in student admissions may well have a trump card in California: Proposition 209, the 1996 initiative that barred preferences based on race or sex in public employment, contracting and education.

          "Federal law usually overrides state law. But if the Supreme Court rules that racial considerations are allowed -- but not required -- in public school enrollment, California would be free to prohibit such considerations [in accord with] Prop. 209, said lawyers who take opposing positions on the racial issue.

          "The Seattle plan, suspended since 2002 when it came under legal attack, was upheld in October by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A 7-4 majority said officials of the 46,000-student district had tried some race-neutral alternatives and considered others before adopting a system that allowed race to be considered as one of several factors in admission at desirable schools.

          "In Kentucky, where the 95,000-student Jefferson County district was formerly under a court desegregation order, the district's assignment program now aims for an African American enrollment of between 15 and 50 percent at each school. A federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the program last July.

          "The cases are Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District, 05-908, and Meredith vs. Jefferson County Board of Education, 05-915.  E-mail the writers at begelko@sfchronicle.com and hknight@sfchronicle.com.

-- Excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle story by
Bob Egelko and Heather Knight Tuesday, June 6, 2006

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High court to take up cases on school desegregation
Affirmative Action Reversal Possible
Excerpts from the San Jose Mercury News by David G. Savage of the LA Times June 6, 2006
WASHINGTON - "The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up two cases that could spell the end of official efforts to maintain racial integration in U.S. public schools.

          "The justices said they would hear appeals from parents in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., who say it is unconstitutional for officials to consider a student's race when making school assignments. Both cities adopted voluntary integration programs in recent years that put limits on how many white or black students may be enrolled in some schools.

          "A ruling outlawing such efforts could have a wide impact.

          "Monday's announcement could signal a historic shift on the role of race in education.  Just three years ago, the court upheld affirmative action in colleges and universities, but two new conservative justices [John Roberts and Samuel Alito] have joined the court since then, and both have criticized the use of race by the government.

          "Beginning with the Reagan era of the 1980s, conservatives have insisted it is unconstitutional for the government to use a person's race as a factor in hiring, awarding contracts, admitting college students, or, in this instance, assigning students to public schools.

          "In 2003, however, the Supreme Court dealt conservatives a defeat in a University of Michigan law school case. The court, in a 5-4 decision, said higher education had a 'compelling' need to consider a student's race if it was to maintain diversity in classes.  That decision was written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired in February.

          " 'The issue here is: Can public schools voluntarily discriminate among students to achieve racial balance?' said Sharon Browne, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento, which had urged the court to hear both cases.  'They are teaching our kids that race still matters.   If they can continue to do that, we will never get to a place where the country is color blind.'

          "Seattle has 10 high schools, and it allows students to choose which one they want to attend.  But if a school is 'over-subscribed' with too many students, officials put limits on who may enroll.   One factor they consider is a student's race. The district's integration plan calls for trying to maintain a racial balance within 10 percentage points of its overall enrollment, which is 60 percent minority and 40 percent white.

          "Students are given a preference in enrolling in a school if their brother or sister is attending the same school.  Their race is described as a 'tie breaker.'

          "In 2001, for example, 300 students were denied their first choice of a high school because of their race. Of these, 210 were white and 90 were minorities. The minorities include students who are black, Latino, Asian and American Indian.

          "The Seattle plan has been tied up in litigation for years. In October, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the plan on a 7-4 vote and applauded the school system for achieving 'racial diversity' despite the city's segregated housing patterns.

          "Louisville, unlike Seattle, had a history of official racial segregation.  In 1975, it was ordered to bus students to achieve desegregation, but that court order ended in 2000 [because the courts ruled that Louisville had achieved integrated schools].  [Nonetheless], a year later, it adopted a voluntary integration plan that seeks a black enrollment of at least 15 percent and no more than 50 percent in each school.

          "Crystal Meredith, a white parent, challenged the plan, charging that it violated her son's rights because he was blocked from attending his neighborhood elementary school because it had too many white students.

          "But a federal judge and the U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the integration plan, based in part on O'Connor's opinion in the law school case.

          "The Supreme Court said it will hear both cases in the fall. They are Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District and Meredith vs. Jefferson County Board of Education.  After declaring segregation unconstitutional in the Brown vs. Board of Education case of 1954, the court said school officials should proceed 'with all deliberate speed' to end segregation."

-- Excerpted from the San Jose Mercury News article
by David G. Savage of the LA Times June 6, 2006

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Revisiting affirmative action From the TownHall.com article by Linda Chavez
June 7, 2006
          "The Supreme Court has decided to revisit the issue of race-based admissions, this time in K-12 schools.

          "In 2003, in a pair of cases involving the University of Michigan, the Court handed down decisions that pleased neither side in the debate. 

          "On the one hand, the Court sided with affirmative action proponents by allowing schools to use race as a 'plus factor' in deciding whom to admit.  But the Court also said efforts to achieve racial 'diversity' had to be narrowly tailored and could not utilize rigid point systems like the one adopted by Michigan for undergraduate admissions.

          "One thing was clear at the time -- the Michigan cases would not be the final word on the subject.  So, once again, the Court is faced with having to decide whether a little bit of racial discrimination is OK, so long as it's employed in the service of achieving 'diversity.'

          "The new cases, which will be argued in December, involve school systems in Seattle and Louisville, Ky.  Of the two, Seattle is the more interesting.  Unlike Louisville, Seattle has no history of operating a racially segregated school system, which has usually been the basis for court-ordered programs to achieve racial balance.  And, Seattle has substantial Asian and Hispanic populations in addition to blacks and whites.

          "Nonetheless, the [Seattle] city school board decided to list 'diversity' as an educational goal.  The board adopted an open admissions policy that allowed students to attend any high school of their choosing -- so long as the school's racial balance was within 15 percent of the city's overall racial composition: 60 percent minority and 40 percent white.

          "But some schools will always be more popular than others.  In schools where the demand exceeds the available slots, the school board decided that preference would be given first to siblings of students already attending the school, and second to students whose race would tip the school's balance toward achieving the 60/40, minority/white ratio.  A group of white parents sued the school system when their children were denied admission to Ballard High School, one of the city's best and most popular schools.

          "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the diversity scheme in an unusual 7-4 en banc decision, reversing a three-judge panel that had struck down the plan.  But no one is quite sure what the Supreme Court will do, especially given the changes on the Court itself.  Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the swing vote in the Michigan cases, voting for race as a factor in admissions to the law school, but striking down the university's undergraduate admissions program that granted extra points to black and Hispanic applicants.  All eyes will be on the Court's newest members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

          "This set of cases will give the Supreme Court the chance to get it right, finally, on whether there can ever be a good reason to discriminate on the basis of race.  The Court blew it when it had the chance to do so in the Michigan cases, choosing to allow a little bit of discrimination.   But in issues of racial discrimination, there can be no middle ground.   Judging someone by the color of his skin is wrong, period.  You can't undo past wrongs by perpetrating new ones, even on a temporary basis, as the Court tried to do in the Michigan cases by suggesting affirmative action was needed for another 25 years.

          "And in Seattle, there is not even the excuse that some past wrong must be righted (not that there was such justification at the University of Michigan, either).  The Seattle plan is a quota system by another name.  Whenever a school reaches its quota of white students (or minorities), no more students from that racial group may attend, with a few minor exceptions for siblings.

          "It's time the Court returned to the principles of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 case that struck down racial segregation.  Race has no place in the assignment of students to public schools."

(Linda Chavez is Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Townhall.com partner organization, and the author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics.)

-- From the TownHall.com article by Linda Chavez June 7, 2006
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Editor's Afterthought:  One thing that struck me as I pored over these news accounts was the various authors' use of the following, relatively useless terms without providing any precise definition for these terms:
  • Diversity
  • Segregation
  • Desegregation
  • Resegregation
  • Discrimination
  • Racial Balance
  • Affirmative Action
  • Race-Sensitive
  • Multicultural

          ALL of these terms have huge political baggage associate with them, and NONE of them are objectively meaningful.  Courts of law should ban the use of these terms in any pending discrimination case.

          Why?

          Because in the hands of liberal authors, most of these terms essentially mean "racial quotas are good, racial preferences are good, whites should go to the back of the line due to their presumed past sins and, finally, equal treatment regardless of race is a bad thing".

          In the hands of conservative authors, most of these terms essentially mean "racial quotas are bad, racial preferences are bad, whites deserve the same protection against discrimination as anyone else, and equal treatment regardless of race is the most desirable thing on the planet."

          Both liberal and conservative commentators are guilty of throwing these terms around without defining them. 

          The fuzzy definition of these terms presents a very large obstacle to our society's ongoing effort to achieve a color blind society whose rewards accrue to individual citizens based on individual merit, effort, ability, and achievement regardless of race, skin color, national origin, or other specious demographics.

          Why can't we just call "racial preferences", um, well, "racial preferences"?  Hiding behind poorly defined "feel good" terms does not advance any constructive dialogue on this issue and only serve to further polarize us.

          Let's dispose of the race card and begin re-constructing our schools, our businesses, our government contracting policies, and our philosophy as a nation in terms of merit, effort, achievement, and ability regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin.

-- Tim Fay
-- Editor
-- Adversity.Net

 


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