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

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
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
Science Webinar
Close the Gender Gap: Getting Girls Excited about STEM
Join female STEM leaders as they discuss the importance of early cheerleaders, real life role models, and female networks of support.
Content provided by Logitech
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 Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education

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 Asks for Biden Administration's Views on Legal Status of Charter Schools
Stemming from a suit over a North Carolina school's dress code, the issue is whether "public" charter schools act with government authority.
3 min read
Thunder storm sky over the United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts West Virginia Law Barring Transgender Girls From School Sports Upheld by Federal Judge
The decision is a turnabout for the judge, who cast doubt on the law in 2021 and issued an order allowing a transgender girl to compete.
4 min read
Judge gavel on law books with statue of justice and court government background. concept of law, justice, legal.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts A Teacher Argued His MAGA Hat Was Protected Speech. Here's What a Federal Appeals Court Said
Did a principal violate a teacher's rights when she told him not to bring his Donald Trump-inspired hat to a racial-sensitivity training?
4 min read
Image of a gavel
iStock/Getty
Law & Courts School District Policy Basing Restroom Access on 'Biological Sex' Upheld by Appeals Court
The sharply divided appellate court rules against transgender student Drew Adams and possibly tees up a major fight in the Supreme Court.
5 min read
Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Dec. 5, 2019.
Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside a federal courthouse in Atlanta in 2019. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled against him on Dec. 30.
Ron Harris/AP