Didn't know if it would be better to put this in the Vox Thread, but can be moved. The city Sharcque and I grew up in did that and there there was a big outcry. There excuse was to bring "racial harmony". But the politics behind that was to make a bigger and better football team.
Race-Based School Placements Questioned by High Court (Update2)
By Greg Stohr
Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A divided U.S. Supreme Court signaled it probably will bar school districts from trying to integrate their classrooms by using race to assign students to schools.
Hearing arguments in Washington, the justices today aimed a torrent of questions at lawyers defending integration plans in Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky. Both programs limit the ability of parents to choose schools by imposing numerical ranges for racial composition.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who looms as the reconstituted court's swing vote on race questions, suggested the school districts were violating the Constitution's equal protection clause. He joined Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Antonin Scalia in criticizing the plans.
``You're characterizing each student by reason of the color of his or her skin,'' Kennedy said to the lawyer defending the Seattle plan. ``It seems to me that should only be, if ever allowed, allowed as a last resort.''
A decision striking down the plans would mark a shift on the court and underscore the impact of President George W. Bush's two appointees, Roberts and Alito. The last time the court considered the subject of racial diversity in education, in 2003, it said universities could consider race in making admissions decisions.
The Bush administration opposes the Seattle and Louisville plans, joining white parents who sued after their children weren't assigned to their preferred school.
The justices heard arguments as hundreds of advocates for school desegregation held a rally on the sidewalk in front of the court building, waving signs and chanting slogans.
Inside the courtroom, Justice Stephen Breyer was one of four justices who defended the plans, saying they addressed what he called a ``terrible problem.''
``The problem is that there are lots and lots of school districts that are becoming more segregated in fact,'' he said.
Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens also signaled they likely will vote to uphold the plans. Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the court's most ardent critic of affirmative action, was the only justice who didn't ask questions. Thomas typically doesn't ask questions during arguments.
Solicitor General Paul Clement, the Bush administration's top courtroom lawyer, told the justices that school boards could pursue integration through other steps, such as creating magnet schools and reallocating resources.
``You can take race-neutral means that will get you a degree of integration in the schools,'' Clement said.
Souter questioned the logic of letting school boards pursue race-conscious goals only if they use race-neutral methods.
``The question comes down to: Can they do it candidly or do they have to do it by clumsier means?'' Souter asked. ``That is, it seems to me, an unacceptable basis to draw a constitutional line.''
Several of his colleagues, however, said they saw a significant difference. Kennedy repeatedly asked whether districts could consider the racial impact when deciding where to build a new school.
He eventually answered his own question, suggesting that racial considerations in what he called ``strategic siting'' decisions were both permissible and fundamentally different from assignment decisions based on an individual student's race.
Roberts said that ``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.''
Seattle's ``open-choice'' assignment plan lets students choose their preferred high school. For those schools where requests exceed space, officials give first priority to siblings of current students and then in some cases consider race.
The most recent rules call for race to serve as a tiebreaker in schools that are more than 65 percent white or 75 percent minority. Because of the litigation, the school district hasn't used race in assigning students since 2002.
In 2000-01, race was a factor in 300 of the 3,000 ninth- grade assignments. The integration tiebreaker applied to four schools that year, three of which were predominantly white.
The Seattle school district's lawyer, Michael Madden, told the justices that ``all children benefit from exposure to racial and ethnic diversity in the classroom.''
Alito questioned whether the plan achieved its stated goal, pointing to two south Seattle high schools that remained predominantly minority even with the racial tiebreaker.
``Are the students attending those schools getting the benefit of attending a school that's racially balanced?'' Alito asked Madden. ``And if they're not, why are you not concerned about that if that's an important part of your program?''
Harry Korrell, a lawyer for white families challenging the program, argued that the equal protection guarantee requires government agencies to ``treat people as individuals, not simply as members of a racial class.''
The Kentucky case involves elementary and middle schools, as well as high schools. The Jefferson County school district has a ``managed choice'' system that considers parent preferences while requiring that each school have from 15 percent to 50 percent black students.
One potential distinction between the two cases is that until 2000 the Kentucky district was acting under a court desegregation order, designed to rectify decades of state- sponsored discrimination.
``What's constitutionally permissible one day is constitutionally prohibited the next day,'' Ginsburg said. ``It's very odd.''
Still, the lawyer for the Louisville district, Francis Mellen, said the school system wasn't using its history as a basis for defending its plan. He called the program a ``success story'' that had broad community support.
Teddy Gordon, representing a white woman who objected to her son's school placement, said the plan established an unconstitutional ``quota'' limiting white enrolment at some schools.
The justices are scheduled to rule by the end of June. The cases are Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 05-908, and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 05-915.