Thursday, June 28, 2007

The US Supreme Court Turns the Clock Back on School Integration

Here's something else to add to the legacy of the Bush administration. plk

excerpt from

Supreme Court rejects school race plans

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Write

A half-century after the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools, sharply divided justices clamped new limits Thursday on local school efforts to make sure children of different races share classrooms.

The court voted 5-4 to strike down school integration plans in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, a decision that imperiled similar plans that hundreds of cities and counties use voluntarily to integrate their schools.

The ruling does not affect several hundred other public school districts that remain under federal court order to desegregate.

Justices disagreed bluntly with each other in 169 pages of written opinions on whether the decision supports or betrays the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that led to the end of state-sponsored school segregation in the United States.

...Chief Justice John Roberts asserted in his majority opinion that by classifying students by race, the school districts are perpetuating the unequal treatment the Brown decision outlawed.

...Crucially for school districts seeking guidance, Justice Anthony Kennedy went along with the court's four most conservative members in rejecting the Louisville and Seattle plans but also said race may sometimes be a component of school efforts to achieve diversity.

...Justice Stephen Breyer, in a pointed dissent he read in the courtroom, said those measures have had only limited success in promoting integration.

Breyer was more expressive than usual in the elegant courtroom, grimacing a time or two, shaking his head and rolling his eyes as Roberts read from his opinion.

Joined by the other liberals on the court, Breyer said Roberts' opinion undermined the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in the Brown decision.

...On the other side, Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's only black member, wrote a separate opinion endorsing the ruling and taking issue with the dissenters' view of the Brown case.

...Civil rights leaders, trying to make the best of the decision, said Kennedy's opinion, when combined with the four dissenters, showed that a majority of the justices support the continuing use of race-conscious measures to integrate public schools.

...Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Racial Justice Program, said, "Even so, the rejection of the Seattle and Louisville school plans represents a significant step backwards in a nation where schools are becoming increasingly segregated by race and ethnicity."

School districts that have plans that resemble the ones struck down by the court are expected to look for other ways to make their schools racially balanced without specifically relying on race.

...The ruling also could unsettle the more than 2,000 magnet schools that educate 2 million children since many were created under desegregation plans, said UCLA education expert Gary Orfield.

...The Jefferson County and Seattle school systems, whose integration plans were the subjects of Thursday's decisions, employ slightly different methods of taking students' race into account when determining which schools they will attend.

...The Louisville case grew out of complaints from several parents whose children were not allowed to attend the schools of their choice. Crystal Meredith, a white, single mother, sued after the school system turned down a request to transfer her 5-year-old son Joshua Ryan McDonald, to a school closer to home.

...After a federal judge freed the Jefferson County, Ky., school board, which encompasses Louisville, from his supervision, the board decided to keep much of the court-ordered plan in place to prevent schools from re-segregating.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said he was disappointed with the ruling because his city's system had provided "a quality education for all students and broken down racial barriers" for 30 years.

Deborah Stallworth, a Louisville parent who successfully sued to end court-ordered busing in 2000, said: "We send children to school to be educated, not as a social experiment."

The Seattle school district said it used race as a factor only at the end of a lengthy process in allocating students among the city's high schools.

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