Civil Liberties

An End to Race-Based School Integration?


The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a couple of cases involving the assignment of kids to public schools based on race. According to this account in the Boston Globe, signs point to a possible overthrow of such policies:

The Supreme Court justices, hearing arguments on school integration, signaled yesterday that they are likely to bar the use of race when assigning students to public schools. Such a ruling could deal a blow to hundreds of school systems across the United States that use racial guidelines to maintain a semblance of classroom integration in cities whose neighborhoods are divided along racial lines……
Yesterday's argument also might mark the emergence of a five-member majority on the court that may be determined to outlaw the official use of racial guidelines in schools, colleges, and public agencies.

"The purpose of the Equal Protection clause is to ensure that people are treated as individuals rather than based on the color of their skin," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said.

Three years ago, the court upheld affirmative action at universities. But that 5-to-4 decision depended on the now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

……At issue were the racial integration guidelines adopted by school boards in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. The two cases are Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education.

…….The court will issue a ruling in several months. ……..The justices who spoke during the argument all agreed that racial integration is a laudable goal. However, a narrow majority—in comments, questions, and past decisions—made clear their belief that the Constitution forbids shifting children from one school to another based on their race.

The very valuable ScotusBlog guides you to lots of other writeups of the arguments, and to MP3s of the arguments, if you want to think about the meaning of equal protection of the law when it comes to race and public education while jogging.