Affirmative Action in K-12 Schools

December 11, 2002 2 min read

Taxman v. Piscataway Township Board of Education

A New Jersey district laid off a white teacher over a black teacher of equal seniority to maintain diversity in a high school business education department. Two lower federal courts held that the race-based decision violated federal employment-discrimination law. The U.S. Supreme Court granted review of the case in 1997. But a coalition of civil rights groups, fearing a ruling that would harm affirmative action nationwide, raised money for a settlement that ended the case before the justices heard it.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, in 1998 struck down an affirmative action plan governing admissions at Boston Latin School, a prestigious public school for which race was considered for about half the openings. The Boston school board decided not to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Montgomery County Public Schools v. Eisenberg

A suburban Washington district turned down a white father’s request to transfer his son to a majority-white magnet school, saying the transfer would add to racial isolation at the boy’s mostly black neighborhood school. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., struck down the policy and ordered the boy’s admission to the magnet school. The Supreme Court in 2000 declined to hear the school district’s appeal.

The white and Asian-American parents of a girl who was rejected for enrollment in a laboratory elementary school run by the University of California, Los Angeles, challenged the school’s consideration of race in admissions. A federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, upheld the use of race as necessary to admit a population that mirrors the urban communities the lab school was designed to help. The Supreme Court declined review in 2000.

Friery v. Los Angeles Unified School District

A white teacher was denied a transfer because it would place his new school’s ratio of white to nonwhite faculty members outside the district’s target. The teacher sued, arguing that the policy violated the 1996 California constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 209, that bars racial preferences in government. He lost in federal district court, but a 9th Circuit panel in August asked the California Supreme Court for an interpretation of the amendment. The state high court declined, so the case is back before the federal appeals court.

Scott v. Pasadena Unified School District

White parents challenged the district’s policy of considering race in an admissions lottery for three magnet schools. A federal district court struck down the policy, but a 9th Circuit panel ruled in October that the challengers lacked legal standing because none of their children was actually denied admission based on the racial factors. The appellate court ordered the dismissal of the lawsuit.

A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2002 edition of Education Week as Affirmative Action in K-12 Schools