Law & Courts

Following Busy Term, No Education Disputes Yet on Court’s Docket

By Mark Walsh — October 02, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After a blockbuster 2001-02 U.S. Supreme Court term involving such hot-button issues as private school vouchers, drug testing in extracurricular activities, and student privacy, the new court term that begins next week has nary an education case on the docket.

Copies of “From Desegregation to Diversity: A School District’s Self Assessment Guide on Race, Student Assignment, and the Law,” can be ordered for $16 from the National School Boards Association.

But that could change in a hurry. This week, the justices were to meet privately to decide which, if any, of the more than 2,000 appeals that piled up over the summer were worthy of being added to their schedule for full review. At this point last year, the court had accepted only one of the four major education cases it ended up deciding last term but it was widely and correctly assumed that another—the landmark vouchers case—would soon make the list.

Among the pending appeals from over the summer are at least a dozen education cases. They involve such issues as the right of teachers to speak about public issues in their classrooms and the legal remedies available to school custodians who are forced to work with asbestos-laden floor tiles.

And sometime later this fall, the high court is likely to decide whether to grant review of a high-profile affirmative action case from the University of Michigan. Any Supreme Court decision on the consideration of race in school admissions would reverberate throughout the nation’s colleges and precollegiate schools. Many legal experts expect the justices to hear Grutter v. Bollinger (Case No. 02-241), which involves the University of Michigan’s law school.

In May, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled 5-4 to uphold the law school’s consideration of race in the admissions process, a factor officials say they include to promote racial diversity in enrollment.

The majority said the Supreme Court’s fractured 1978 ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, which upheld the consideration of race as one factor among many in admissions decisions, was still the law of the land on affirmative action. The 6th Circuit court has not yet issued its ruling on a separate appeal regarding undergraduate admissions at the University of Michigan.

Barbara Grutter, the white student who was denied admission to the university’s law school, has asked the Supreme Court to strike down race- conscious admissions as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.

“At the most fundamental level the question [this case] raises is whether our nation’s principles of equal protection and nondiscrimination mean the same thing for all races,” argues her appeal, which is backed by the Center for Individual Rights, a legal-advocacy group in Washington.

The Supreme Court has given the university a mid-October deadline for responding to the appeal. The Bush administration is likely to weigh in on Ms. Grutter’s side.

A Chilly Reception

David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center here, said that while many legal experts expect affirmative action to get a chilly reception from the high court’s conservative majority, he “optimistically” thinks the law school’s policy could be upheld.

“The justices come from, and value their relationships with, these elite institutions that favor affirmative action,” he said.

Alexander E. Dreier, a lawyer with the Washington firm of Hogan & Hartson, said that if the justices accept the University of Michigan case for review, school districts should pay attention.

“The legal issue the Grutter case would tee up for the Supreme Court is whether the goal of diversity can satisfy the very tough ‘strict scrutiny’ standard,” he said at a Sept. 24 school law forum sponsored by the National School Boards Association. “If the court decides to hear this case, it will also have important implications for primary and secondary schools.”

Many districts use race-conscious policies for assigning students to magnet schools and other educational programs, and such policies have been under attack in the courts. The NSBA last week released a handbook for K-12 schools on the use of race in student assignments, called “From Desegregation to Diversity.”

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
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
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
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
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

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 District Can Deny Opt-Outs on LGBTQ+ Books, Court Rules
Religious parents objected to a Maryland district's policy ending opt-outs for elementary school 'storybooks' with LGBTQ+ themes.
5 min read
A pedestrian passes by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Courthouse, June 16, 2021, on Main Street in Richmond, Va.
A person walks near the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit's courthouse in Richmond, Va. A panel of the court denied an injunction seeking to restore religious parents' opportunity to opt their children out of LGBTQ+ "storybooks" in a Maryland district.
Steve Helber/AP
Law & Courts Brown v. Board of Education: 70 Years of Progress and Challenges
The milestone for the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down racial segregation in schools is marked by a range of tributes
12 min read
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
Law & Courts Republican-Led States Sue to Block New Title IX Rule
A pair of lawsuits focus on the rule's protections for students' gender identity.
5 min read
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Patrick Orsagos/AP
Law & Courts Why It Will Now Be Easier for Educators to Sue Over Job Transfers
The case asked whether transferred employees had to show a 'significant' change in job conditions to sue under Title VII. The court said no.
8 min read
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022.
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. The high court on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, made it easier for workers, including educators, to sue over job transfers.
Patrick Semansky/AP