The American Civil Rights Foundation is suing the Berkeley, Calif., school district over its use of race in determining students’ assignment to elementary schools and to special high school programs.
The nonprofit foundation, which has members that include Berkeley residents and taxpayers, alleges in the suit, filed Oct. 4 in Alameda County Superior Court, that the policy violates California’s Proposition 209, which prohibits discrimination based on race or sex in public education, employment, and contracting.
Proposition 209 was passed in 1996 as an amendment to the state constitution.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group, will represent the ACRF in the lawsuit. The Pacific Legal Foundation lost a similar lawsuit against an earlier version of the Berkeley district’s plan in 2003 in the same court; the group did not appeal that decision but says changes to the plan allowed it to sue again.
“The [school] board and the district are standing firmly behind our existing student-assignment plan,” said Mark Copeland, a spokesman for the 9,000-student district. “It’s withstood attack in the past, and we expect it to do the same in this instance.”
The plan assigns students to schools by weighing the parents’ choice of schools, whether a sibling already attends the desired school, and whether the student’s home ZIP code is in one of three attendance zones that were designed using data on residents’ race and ethnicity as well as the education and income levels of all parents who live in each zone.
A version of this article appeared in the October 11, 2006 edition of Education Week