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Author Topic: Court to Weigh Race as Factor in School Rolls  (Read 3073 times)
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« on: June 07, 2006, 12:51:17 PM »

...In December, with Justice O'Connor still on the court, the justices refused to hear a challenge to a racially conscious student assignment plan in the public schools of Lynn, Mass. That plan, which a federal appeals court had upheld, is basically indistinguishable from the plans at issue in the new cases: Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, No. 05-908, and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, No. 05-915.

What has changed is the Supreme Court itself, with the retirement in January of Justice O'Connor and her replacement by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. One lawyer involved in the challenges to the Seattle and Louisville plans, Sharon L. Browne of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative public-interest law firm, expressed the view that this change made the difference.

"I think the writing's on the wall, or at least I hope it is," Ms. Browne said in an interview Monday.

The plans under review in the new cases differ in details that are unlikely to prove constitutionally significant. The Jefferson County, Ky., school board adopted the Louisville plan in 2001, shortly after the school system was declared desegregated and was released from 25 years of federal court supervision.

The "managed choice" plan applies to all schools, kindergarten through 12th grade. In a district that is one-third nonwhite, every school is required to seek a black student enrollment of at least 15 percent and no more than 50 percent.

The Louisville case was taken to the Supreme Court by Crystal D. Meredith, a white parent whose son, Joshua McDonald, did not receive a requested transfer to attend kindergarten in a school that was trying to maintain a sufficient number of black students.

The plan in Seattle, which has struggled for decades to deal with the effects on its school system of segregated housing patterns, applies only to the city's 10 high schools. The policy is one of "open choice," subject to various "tiebreakers," one of which is race. Other factors include geographic proximity and whether a student has a sibling at the desired school, both of which count in favor of an application.

Under the "integration tiebreaker," high schools that deviate by more than 15 percent from the systemwide balance, which is 60 percent nonwhite, must take account of an applicant's race in order not to deviate further.

A group of parents organized as a nonprofit corporation called Parents Involved in Community Schools to fight the plan, and filed the Supreme Court appeal after losing by a vote of 7 to 4 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
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