Equity & Diversity

Judge Upholds Racial Balancing By Mass. District

By Mark Walsh — June 18, 2003 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In an important ruling involving race in K-12 education, a federal judge has upheld the Lynn, Mass., school district’s 15-year-old program of voluntary desegregation, which takes race into account in student transfers to and from neighborhood schools.

In a 162-page opinion on June 6, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner of Boston rejected arguments from a group of parents of both white and nonwhite Lynn students that the district’s school assignment plan violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the law.

“K-12 education involves a setting in which diversity has a different resonance than in any other,” the judge said in accepting the district’s rationale for its race- conscious plan. She noted that the Lynn plan did not involve racial preferences in competitive magnet school admissions, which have been struck down by some courts.

The ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is close to deciding two cases involving the consideration of race in admissions at the University of Michigan. (“Admissions Case Could Have Impact on K-12 Education,” Dec. 11, 2002.)

Voluntary Plan

The 15,400-student Lynn district, near Boston, instituted the voluntary plan in the late 1980s to combat growing racial imbalances in its 18 elementary schools, four middle schools, and three high schools. Under the plan, students may transfer out of their assigned neighborhood schools if the transfers would improve or have a neutral effect on racial balance in the sending or receiving schools. Transfers that would worsen racial balance in either school are prohibited.

Elementary schools are considered racially balanced if their minority enrollments are within 15 percent, plus or minus, of the overall percentage of minority students in the district. A range of 10 percent, plus or minus, is used in middle and high schools. The district’s enrollment last year was 42 percent white and 58 percent nonwhite, defined in the decision as African-American, Hispanic, and Asian.

Judge Gertner said the Lynn plan passed muster under the highest level of constitutional scrutiny because K-12 schools have a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity to foster good citizenship.

Chester Darling, the lawyer representing the plan’s challengers, said the ruling would be appealed.

Events

Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Practices & the Construction of the Deep Reading Brain
Join Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, director of the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, with Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD., Vital Village Community Engagement Network; Neena McConnico, Ph.D, LMHC, Child Witness to Violence Project; and Sondra
Content provided by Rollins Center & Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Addressing Disparities of Black Students with Disabilities
Nearly two years of the pandemic have taken a toll on our nation’s students – especially those in the Black community and who are living with disabilities. But, as they say, in every crisis comes
Content provided by Easterseals

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Illustrations.
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty