Education A National Roundup

Legal Group Fights Race-Based Policies in Los Angeles District

By Rhea R. Borja — October 18, 2005 1 min read

A legal-advocacy group has filed two lawsuits against the Los Angeles Unified School District, alleging that certain district policies violate Proposition 209, an amendment to the California Constitution barring public entities from using race or ethnicity in decisionmaking.

The Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Institute—whose founder and chairman is Ward Connerly, a chief architect of the amendment approved in 1996—wants the Los Angeles district to stop using race to determine where students attend school and where teachers will work.

One of the lawsuits, which were filed in Los Angeles County superior court on Oct. 12, attacks the district’s voluntary-busing policy and its popular magnet school program, which seeks to ensure racial and ethnic diversity in enrollment.

The other takes issue with the district’s policy of placing teachers in schools according to race.

“The school district is sending the wrong message to our kids, that it’s OK to categorize people by the color of their skin,” said Sharon Browne, the principal lawyer for the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento, which is representing the institute.

The organization has a similar lawsuit pending against the Capistrano Unified School District.

Kevin Reed, the general counsel for the Los Angeles schools, said the lawsuits’ argument is “without merit.” A desegregation order imposed by a federal court is in effect in the district, he said, and that trumps a state amendment.

A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2005 edition of Education Week