Racial Diversity in K-12 Schools

By Mark Walsh — January 29, 2008 2 min read
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The Jefferson County, Ky., school board heard a proposal on Monday for how it might be able to keep its schools integrated in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that restricted the consideration of race in assigning students to schools.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that race, income, and family education levels would be considered equally in assigning the district’s 98,000 students to schools.

“Under the proposal, all schools--elementary, middle and high--must enroll at least 15 percent and no more than 50 percent of their students from neighborhoods that have income and education levels below the district average and higher-than-average numbers of minorities,” the newspaper reports in its main story. The Courier-Journal has an impressive package of sidebar stories, maps, photos, and other elements on the proposal.

Teddy Gordon, the lawyer who led the legal challenge to the Jefferson County student assignment plan that was struck down by the Supreme Court, tells the paper that he questions whether the new proposal would stand up in court.

In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, the justices ruled 5-4 to strike down two school districts’ race-conscious student assignment plans as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause. Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, was the other school district in involved in the decision besides Seattle. Education Week reported on the initial decision here and here.

Meanwhile, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund recently published a manual for parents, educators, and advocates on what steps are still legally available to maintain racially diverse schools. The 95-page manual, Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration, is available in PDF form online or can be ordered from the organization.

“While altering the landscape of school integration, the Seattle/Louisville decision did not provide a clear set of rules and principles for school districts to follow, and created some confusion about what school districts and communities can do to promote integration in their schools,” the manual states.

There are some other helpful documents out there for educators as they grapple with the Seattle/Jefferson County decision.

The National School Boards Association teamed up with the College Board last year to publish “Not Black and White,” a guide to the Supreme Court’s decision. And earlier, the NSBA had released “An Educated Guess: Initial Guidance on Diversity in Public Schools After PICS v. Seattle School District.”

And the Hogan & Hartson law firm, which works with many school districts on diversity issues, put out its own guidance last year. The firm issued this document shortly after the decision last summer, and this updated guidance last September. (Thanks to Maree Sneed of Hogan & Hartson for the documents.)

Finally, for those who want more to chew on, the Harvard Law Review devoted several articles to analyzing the Seattle/Jefferson County race decisions in its November issue.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.