Law & Courts

Diversity on the Docket

By Andrew Trotter — October 03, 2006 1 min read
Louisville, KY.: Teacher Carlotta Ingram welcomes kindergarten students last month to John F. Kennedy Montessori Elementary School, which, like other schools in the Jefferson County district follows a policy that considers race in assigning students. The U.S. Supreme Court will review the district's policy during the term that begins this week.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

School leaders attest to educational and social benefits from such diversity. They argue that local housing patterns historically tend to separate families of different races and may lead to schools that are racially homogeneous if the districts do not counter them with assignment policies that consider race.

Diversity on the Docket
Kentucky: No Shades of Gray
Seattle: Target Demographics

But in two appeals to the high court, families in Jefferson County, Ky., and Seattle argue that such race-conscious plans have unconstitutionally denied their children the equal protection of the law.

The high court’s decisions in the cases could have a dramatic impact across the country, potentially affecting student-assignment plans in hundreds of districts, legal observers say.

The rulings would also be the first time that the court has addressed race in education since a pair of landmark 2003 decisions upholding the use of race in higher education admissions. Since then, the makeup of the court has changed, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito III joining during the last term.

The Bush administration is supporting the families’ appeals of lower-court decisions that upheld the race-conscious policies in Jefferson County and Seattle. The administration argues that the student-assignment plans were not “narrowly tailored,” and did not further “a compelling government interest.” Those are requirements for constitutionality that the Supreme Court has established for all government classifications based on race.

But the administration stops short of calling for the justices to overrule the core principle expressed three years ago in the University of Michigan cases—that race can be a factor in admissions when considered as part of an individualized review of an applicant.

The school districts argue that their plans, in the specifics, use race in ways that are narrowly tailored, and that maintaining racial diversity furthers important educational goals.

The cases, Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (Case No. 05-915) and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District (No. 05-908), have not yet been set for oral arguments, but those are likely to come later this fall.

Coverage of district-level improvement efforts is underwritten in part by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 2006 edition of Education Week as Diversity on the Docket


Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
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.
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

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

Law & Courts Supreme Court Won't Take Up Cases Seen as Expanding Schools' Liability for Sexual Harassment
The court rejected appeals from a school district and university about when educational institutions may be sued for sexual harassment.
4 min read
Thunder storm sky over the United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts Georgia Educators Plan to Sue Over the State's 'Divisive Concepts' Law
Georgia's could be the sixth lawsuit to challenge state laws limiting classroom discussion of race and racism.
3 min read
Image of a pending lawsuit.
Law & Courts As a Skeptical Supreme Court Weighs Race in College Admissions, 'Brown' Looms Large
The cases heard Monday involve Harvard and the University of North Carolina, but a decision could be felt in K-12 education.
8 min read
Members of the NAACP Youth and College division rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices heard oral arguments on two cases on whether colleges and universities can continue to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions Oct. 31, 2022.
Members of the NAACP Youth and College division rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear oral arguments on whether colleges and universities can continue to consider race as a factor in admissions.
Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images
Law & Courts 4 Things to Know About the Affirmative Action Showdown Before the Supreme Court
The justices on Monday weigh the use of race in admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, with K-12 implications.
9 min read
supreme court SOC