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Thread: The Supreme Court confronts race

  1. #1
    Elite Member JamieElizabeth's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    San Jose, California, United States

    Default The Supreme Court confronts race

    By James Vicini Sat Dec 2, 9:39 AM ET
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court confronts whether race can be used in deciding where students to go to school on Monday, testing the willingness of President George W. Bush's two newest court appointees to overturn programs to foster racial diversity.

    In a pair of cases that could affect millions of students nationwide, the high court will consider whether the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equality allows public elementary, middle and high schools to use race as a factor in admissions.

    A sharply divided Supreme Court voted 5-4 in 2003 when it last addressed similar issues and ruled that racial preferences can be used in university admission decisions.

    Oral arguments on Monday should offer insights into the views on this hot-button social issue from the court's newest members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, conservatives who joined the nine-member court last term.

    Alito replaced the more moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, author of the 2003 ruling that left unresolved whether race also can be used as a factor in deciding admissions to elementary and high schools.

    As U.S. Justice Department lawyers in the early 1980s during Ronald Reagan's presidency, both Roberts and Alito strongly opposed quotas and some affirmative action programs designed to benefit minorities.

    In one case before the high court, Seattle used race as a tie-breaking factor in deciding who gets into which of the city's public high schools when too many students seek admission to the same school.

    School officials there aim for each school to have about 40 percent white students and 60 percent racial minorities, reflecting the city's overall racial composition.

    In the other case, the Louisville, Kentucky-area school district used racial guidelines to keep black student enrollment at most elementary, middle and high schools at between 15 percent and 50 percent to maintain diversity.

    A group of parents in Seattle and the parent of a white student in Louisville who had been denied entry into his neighborhood school challenged the use of race.

    Their lawyers said the Supreme Court has yet to decide a case involving a school district's voluntary use of race-based pupil assignments for a purpose other than to remedy the effects of past segregation.

    Both supporters and opponents of the programs cited the Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 that outlawed racial segregation in the nation's public schools.


    Theodore Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., a civil rights group in New York, urged the court to "preserve and pursue the soul of desegregated education enshrined in Brown and its progeny."

    "The Orwellian arguments that voluntary integration efforts constitute racial discrimination in violation of the ... (Constitution), if validated by this court, would be an unwarranted and tragic reversal of historic proportions," he said in written arguments.

    The Bush administration's top courtroom lawyer, Solicitor General Paul Clement, also invoked the 1954 ruling in urging the court to strike down both programs.

    Clement argued the two race-based student assignment plans are just as unconstitutional as the school segregation policy struck down in 1954.

    "The promise of this court's landmark decision in Brown and its progeny was to effectuate a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system and thus achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis," he said.

    Clement and lawyers for the parents will argue against the plans. Attorneys for the two school districts will defend the programs as constitutional.

  2. #2
    Silver Member hotmommy's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Fort Gordon, GA


    I find it ironic that 40 yrs ago, the Surpreme Court was hearing Brown vs The Board of Edu and now they are hearing this. It seems that everyone wants to say that we are all equal and to imply anything less makes you a racist. Yet when someone fights to get equal rights and they are NOT a minority, it becomes a fight with racist connotations. This kid WAS turned down due to his race, period. White, black, latino or asian, that is what happened. But I wonder if he WAS a minority, if this case would have made it to the Surpreme Court at all.
    I feel that when admittinga child to a school, race should not even be on the application. Age and acadamic achievements should be ALL that are available to the committee. Names can be deceiving so if all apps are given a number, there would be no way to argue with a decision. That is the ONLY way to admit a child based purely on ability.
    I child-proofed my house but they keep getting back in!

  3. #3
    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    you already know.


    there's no such thing as 'race'

  4. #4
    Elite Member JamieElizabeth's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    San Jose, California, United States


    Published: December 4, 2006
    High Court Weighs Racial-Diversity Plans for Schools
    By Andrew Trotter

    The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in two cases that challenge the constitutionality of school districts’ use of race-conscious plans to assign their students to schools.

    The court’s more conservative members appeared highly skeptical of the plans in the Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky., school districts, which sometimes take race into account in assigning students to schools, with the goal of maintaining or creating racial diversity similar to the overall student population of the districts.

    “The problem is that … you’re characterizing each student by reason of the color of his or her skin,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said to Michael F. Madden, the lawyer defending Seattle’s race-conscious tiebreaker for its high schools. “It seems to me that [race] should only be, if ever allowed, allowed as a last resort.

    In this excerpt, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy expresses his concerns about the Seattle school district's race-conscious policy to the district's lawer, Michael F. Madden.

    Justice Kennedy is viewed as the potential swing vote in the case, and most of his comments were skeptical of the districts’ use of race.

    Some of the court’s more liberal members appeared supportive of letting school officials take race into account.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered why the Jefferson County school system’s switch from assigning students based on race under a court-supervised desegregation plan to using a voluntary plan suddenly made the idea legally suspect.

    “What’s constitutionally required one day gets constitutionally prohibited the next day?” she said to Teddy B. Gordon, the lawyer for a family that challenged the district’s voluntary race-conscious policy. “That’s very odd.”

    The Dec. 4 arguments in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (Case No. 05-908) and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (No. 05-915) came as supporters of racial diversity in education rallied outside the Supreme Court building.

    See Also
    Read the accompanying story, “Strong Opinions Expressed at Rally Outside Supreme Court.”
    Questions From New Justices
    The 97,000-student Jefferson County district, which includes the city of Louisville, formerly was under a court-supervised school desegregation plan. The district adopted a voluntary plan in 2001 after a federal court declared it “unitary” and free of the vestiges of past racial discrimination.

    Jefferson County’s “managed choice” plan includes consideration of race for some student assignments to schools. The plan seeks to have a black enrollment of at least 15 percent and no more than 50 percent at each school.

    In this excerpt, Francis J. Mellen Jr., the lawyer for the Jefferson County, Ky., school district, tries to explain to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy how the district's race-conscious plan has been accepted in the community.

    The 46,000-student Seattle district was never under court-ordered desegregation, but in 2000 adopted an assignment plan that it says uses race as a way to foster educational and social benefits in its classrooms. The plan uses race as one of several tiebreakers for the district’s 10 high schools when certain schools are oversubscribed after 9th graders select their preferred schools.

    In both Jefferson County and Seattle, parents of white students challenged the race-conscious plans.

    The lawyers for the school districts defended the disputed assignment plans as narrowly tailored efforts to keep their schools racially diverse.

    “This case presents a story of a board of education that replaced a desegregation decree with a student-assignment plan that works,” said Francis J. Mellen Jr., the lawyer for the Jefferson County school district.

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked Mr. Mellen about then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s statement in Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 case that upheld a race-conscious admissions plan at the University of Michigan law school, that she expected such affirmative action policies might no longer be needed in 25 more years.

    “I can’t read the future,” Mr. Mellen said. But the Jefferson County school board, by modifying its plan, as it did in 1984, 1994, 1996, and 2000, would be able to tailor it more narrowly as local circumstances allowed, he said.

    The chief justice, who joined the court last year, appeared generally skeptical of the districts’ use of race.

    In this excerpt, Justice Samuel B. Alito Jr. asks Michael F. Madden, the Seattle school district's lawyer, about two high schools that have heavily black enrollment despite the district's race-conscious diversity policy.

    The court’s newest member, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., questioned Mr. Madden about two Seattle high schools that had largely black enrollments, and whether their students were benefiting from the district’s racial-diversity policy.

    Both plans came under attack from the Bush administration.

    U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, who took part in arguments on the side of the families in both cases, said that the Seattle district’s plan was based not on “diversity but demo-graphics.”

    The district is “clearly working backward from the overall demographics of the school district, rather than working forward to any clearly articulated pedagogical goal,” Mr. Clement said.

    Perhaps the strongest defense of the district’s plans came from Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who cited the Supreme Court’s 1971 ruling in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, which authorized busing for desegregation.

    In this excerpt, Justice Stephen G. Breyer tells U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement of his concerns that school districts are becoming more racially segregated.

    “Thirty-five years ago in Swann, this court said that a school board … ‘could well conclude that to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society each school should have a prescribed ratio of Negro to white students reflecting the proportion of the district as a whole,’ ” Justice Breyer said. “Thousands of school districts across the country, we’re told, have relied on that statement in an opinion to try to bring about a degree of integration.”

    Mr. Clement, the Bush administration’s lawyer, said that school districts would have been “misguided” to rely on that language after later Supreme Court cases cast doubt on government racial-balancing efforts.

    The court is expected to issue decisions in the cases by July.

    ************************************************** *****************************************
    Last edited by JamieElizabeth; December 8th, 2006 at 07:01 PM.

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