Case 32: Jessica Haak v. Rochester Schools
10 Year Old Girl Denied Admission to Suburban Schools because She's White

Racial Preferences = Racial Discrimination

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This reverse discrimination lawsuit is known by the short name

"Brewer v. The West Irondequoit Central School District"

Ten year old Jessica Haak, a Rochester, NY elementary school student, attempted to transfer to a better suburban school.  She was denied because she is white.  Here is the story.

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(1) Rochester's Race-Based Student Transfers
Web Posted March 14, 2003

          Since 1965 the Rochester, NY City School District (RCSD) has operated a race-based student transfer program known as the Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program. The stated goal of this program is to increase the percentage of minority students in predominantly white suburban schools.

          According to the program's director, Ms. Theresa J. Woodson , the program allows urban-minority students to attend six participating suburban schools in an effort to "reduce minority isolation" and "encourage intercultural learning". [Note 1]

          The program was instituted voluntarily by the Rochester City School District in 1965 to combat the effects of what they call "de facto segregation", i.e., segregation and racial isolation which results from voluntary choices such as housing patterns. This is also sometimes known as "voluntary segregation". Note that the Rochester schools have never been charged with actual racial segregation, called "de jure segregation", i.e., racial segregation and racial separatism resulting from, for example, governmental edicts, laws or other policies restricting the rights and freedoms of certain races and ethnicities.

Jessica Haak Index:

Brighton High School in Rochester, NY
Brighton High School in Rochester, NY
          Under the terms of Rochester's Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program, white students are not allowed to transfer from Rochester's city schools to "better" suburban schools. There is an exception: a white student can transer only if doing so does not "upset the racial balance" of the school.
          According to Brighton High School principal Peter Knapp "we've never seen an application [to the transfer program] that was from a Caucasian." [Note 1]  That is, not until 10 year old Jessica Haak applied for the program. Top
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(2) Jessica Haak
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(2) Ten Year Old Jessica Haak

          In 1998 Rochester elementary student Jessica Haak, who is white, was denied a transfer to a "better" suburban school due to her skin color.

          From 1996 to 1998 Jessica Haak's parents tried to get her transferred from the Rochester City School District (RCSD) -- the inner city schools which are dominated by minorities -- to a better, suburban school. Up until 1998 Jessica's transfer request was refused because the transfer program had no open slots.

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(3) Jessica Sues for Reverse Discrimination
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          Then, in July of 1998, Jessica's parents were notified that the nearby Iroquois Elementary School in the West Irondequoit Central School District (WICSD) might have an opening for Jessica. After an interview process (apparently conducted by telephone), Jessica's transfer to Iroquois was approved for the 1998 - 1999 school year.

          At an orientation session for transfer students, an official of the Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program noticed that Jessica was white. A few days later officials of the transfer program informed Jessica's parents that Jessica could NOT participate in the program because she was white.


(3) Jessica's Parents Sue for Discrimination -- And Win!

          Subsequently, Jessica's parents filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against all of: the Rochester City School District, the Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program, and the officials of these organizations in federal district court.

          The case was heard by Chief Federal District Judge David G. Larimer of the Western District of New York.

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(4) Racial Interests Oppose Jessica Haak Decision
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          On January 14, 1999 the court ruled in favor of Jessica Haak and her parents. Judge Larimer ordered the WICSD to allow Jessica Haak to transfer to and attend classes at the Iroquois Elementary School. (His order was later vacated by the appeals court, but more on that later.)

          In his written opinion, Judge Larimer noted, among other things, that the racial criteria utilized by Rochester's Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program for selecting transfer students violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Judge Larimer noted that when certain races are given preference while others are barred completely, such a policy "tends to promote racial stereotypes rather than to eliminate them."

          Larimer also wrote that "The basic issue before the Court is whether a governmental body -- a school district -- can deny a child the opportunity to participate in a school-sponsored program on account of her race. The answer must be 'no.'"

     The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that, "No state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." It further prohibits the government from treating similarly situated individuals differently without substantial justification. And the Fourteenth Amendment explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity.

(4) Racial Special Interests Appeal the Jessica Haak Decision

          However, the Rochester school district, the school board, the transfer program, and the State of New York (collectively "the defendants") appealed Judge Larimer's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

          The defendants presented their arguments to the court on Sept. 30, 1999. On May 11, 2000 the appeals court ruled against Jessica Haak:

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UP: (3) Jessica Sues for Reverse Discrimination
(5) Rochester Pays Off Jessica, Suspends Transfers
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"We hold that plaintiffs (Jessica Haak and her parents) have not met the requisite heightened standard for issuance of a mandatory injunction and, therefore, [we] vacate the injunction and remand for a full trial on the merits. [Judge Larimer's lower court decision is] vacated and remanded."

The appeals court voted to send the Jessica Haak case back to the Western District Court of New York [Judge Larimer] for a full trial, thus effectively postponing the death of this constitutionally suspect program by several more years at least.

Liberal, Pro-Quota Judges:   The Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel consisted of three judges, two of whom were appointed by Bill Clinton. The two Clinton-appointed judges wrote the majority opinion in the appeal, which effectively endorsed race-based school assignments.

          The third judge on the appeals panel, a Reagan appointee, dissented. In his dissenting opinion Judge Roger J. Miner wrote "There is absolutely no evidence that the program has succeeded in accomplishing its purposes after a full 35 years of existence."

Friend of the Court Briefs in Support Rochester Race-Based Transfers:  Two renowned pro-racial-preference activist groups filed "friend of the court briefs" (amicus curae briefs) supporting Rochester's racial transfer program:

Sidebar:

"... May public schools assign children to ensure racial and ethnic balance in the classroom?

     "After that, may colleges and universities hold blacks and Hispanics to lower standards than whites and Asians?

     "And, after graduation, may employers discriminate in hiring and promotion based on melanin content, where one's ancestors came from, and gender?

     "For those who start their own businesses, may the government continue to deny contracts to the lowest bidder because of race?" [Note 3]

Brighton High School
Brighton High School in wealthy West Rochester, NY
  • Bill Lann Lee, Bill Clinton's illegally appointed Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. submitted a brief arguing for the continuation of race-based student assignments. (Before going to work for Bill Clinton, Mr. Lee was the western regional director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.)
  • Also, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.,Washington, DC filed a lengthy brief in support of a continuation of race-based student assignments in Rochester.

The State of New York also filed an amicus brief in support of Rochester's race-based student transfer program.


(5) Rochester Schools Pay Off Jessica;
Temporarily Suspend Racial Transfers

          Meanwhile, Adversity.Net has been informed that the school district reached a financial settlement with the parents of Jessica Haak, who then dropped their lawsuit and moved from the area. [Note 2] Unfortunately, this is a common outcome for parents of non-minority students who fight racial preferences. Prev
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(6) Segregation INCREASED because of Rochester's Program
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          Also, as of February 2000 the Brighton Central School District has temporarily suspended the Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program pending the final outcome of the lawsuit. [Note 1]


(6) "Racial Isolation" (Voluntary Segregation) Increased
Despite the Rochester Program

          The Rochester race-based student transfer program's stated goal -- "ending racial isolation and increasing diversity" -- is a miserable failure and on that basis alone perhaps it should be abandoned.

          In 1965, when Rochester's race-based student transfer program was implemented, approximately 25% of the students in Rochester's city schools were minorities.

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(7) White Teachers Also Discriminated Against
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          Today, after 35 years of the race-based transfer program, the students in Rochester's city schools are a whopping 80% minority. This is hardly compelling evidence that the program has been even minimially effective in ending "voluntary, de facto segregation" and "racial isolation".


(7) White Rochester Teachers Also Discriminated Against

          At this writing there are currently at least seven reverse discrimination lawsuits pending against the Rochester schools by white teachers.  The teachers are challenging the race-based hiring, transfer and promotions policies of the Rochester City School District and the Rochester Teachers Association. Prev
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(8) Notes / Footnotes
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          The same judge in the same district court that heard Jessica Haak's case -- Judge Larimer -- has been hearing the teacher's reverse discrimination cases, some of which have been stalled in Larimer's court for five years.

          To date, the RCSD has spent over $2.5 million dollars fighting against the white teachers via their law firm, Harter, Secrest & Emery, LLP.  This is a very significant amount of money for a school district which for the 2nd year in a row has a $69 million budget deficit. [Note 2]


(8) Notes / Footnotes

Note 1: Brighton High School "Trapezoid Online" 2/24/2002
     Last Known Link:
     http://www.bcsd.org/trapezoid/0200/

Note 2: Adversity.Net correspondence with white teachers from the Rochester school system.
     No Link.

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(9) Background Sources and Links
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Note 3: Roger Clegg and John Sullivan, National Review 1/13/00
     Original Link:
     http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment101300c.shtml


(9) Additional Background Sources and Links

"Diversity Is Not Enough: A New York case strikes a blow against race-based admissions", by Benjamin Dowling-Sendor, The American School Board Journal, July 1999.
Last known link: http://www.asbj.com/199907/0799schoollaw.html
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"Judge Orders School to Accept White Girl from City", Associated Press via Boston Globe 1/15/99.
Last known link: http://www.boston.com/dailynews/wirehtml/015/Judge_orders_suburban_school_to_acc.shtml

Bill Lann Lee / Clinton Justice Dept. Brief Supporting Rochester's Program before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Brewer v. West Irondequoit Central School District (No. 99-7186)
Last known link: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/briefs/brewer.htm

Links to the Full Opinion of the Second Circuit Court (last known links):
http://csmail.law.pace.edu/lawlib/legal/us-legal/judiciary/second-circuit/test3/99-7186.opn.html
http://www.tourolaw.edu/2ndCircuit/May00/99-7186.html

Dissenting Opinion (supporting Jessica Haak), Judge Miner
Last known link: http://csmail.law.pace.edu/lawlib/legal/us-legal/judiciary/second-circuit/test3/99-7186.dis.html

The formal title of this case is as follows:

Laurie A. Brewer, and Jodie Foster, individually and as parents and guardians of Jessica L. Haak, a minor,
Plaintiffs

-v.-

The West Irondequoit Central School District, The Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program, Monroe Number One Board Of Cooperative Educational Services, Theresa J. Woodson, Gretchen Stephan and Marlene S. Allen, in their individual and official capacities,
Defendants

The case is also known by either of the following short titles:

Brewer v. The West Irondequoit Central School District

or

Brewer v. West Irondequoit Central


END Case 32: Jessica Haak

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*  We use the term reverse discrimination reluctantly and only because it is so widely understood.  In our opinion there really is only one kind of discrimination.