Law & Courts Federal File

OCR Race Letter Draws Objection

By Mark Walsh — September 23, 2008 1 min read

The Department of Education’s office for civil rights has weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision on school districts’ consideration of race in assigning students to schools.

In a “Dear colleague” letter dated Aug. 28, the office boiled down nearly 180 pages of opinions by the justices in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District to barely two pages of analysis.

“The Department of Education strongly encourages the use of race-neutral methods for assigning students to elementary and secondary schools,” the OCR letter says. “Genuinely race-neutral measures” such as those based on a student’s socioeconomic status would not trigger the highest level of court scrutiny, the office says.

The letter takes no notice of the key concurring opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the cases from Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky.

“OCR’s interpretation of the decision is inaccurate in a number of respects,” says a statement issued last week by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, based in New York City.

Anurima Bhargava, the director of the civil rights group’s education practice, said the letter “is very limited in its reading” of the high court decision. “It’s as if Kennedy hadn’t written,” she said.

The court ruled 5-4 in June of last year that assignment plans in the two districts that sometimes relied on race-based assignments to achieve diversity in individual schools, violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

But Justice Kennedy wrote that while those districts used race in an unconstitutional manner, it would be permissible for districts to take race into account under certain circumstances, such as when choosing sites for new schools, drawing attendance zones based on neighborhood demographics, or allocating resources for special programs.

The LDF statement said that in contrast to the Education Department’s interpretation, “there is no requirement in Parents Involved that school districts only use race-neutral means to promote the compelling interests in diversity and avoiding racial isolation in their schools.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 24, 2008 edition of Education Week

Events

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
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
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
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by 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
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

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 Praying Coach v. District That Suspended Him: What's Next in Fight Over Religious Expression
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declined to reconsider an earlier panel ruling that sided with the school district.
4 min read
Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy, center in blue, kneels and prays after his team lost to Centralia in Bremerton, Wash., on Oct. 16, 2015. Kennedy, who was suspended for praying at midfield after games, has filed a discrimination complaint on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission according to The Liberty Institute, a Texas-based law firm representing the coach.
Joe Kennedy, center in blue, kneels and prays after a game in October 2015 when he was the assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash. In a long-running legal fight, Kennedy contends he has First Amendment free-speech and free-exercise-of-religion rights to express his Christian faith while on the job. The case is likely headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lindsey Wasso/The Seattle Times via AP
Law & Courts Appeals Court Again Backs Transgender Student, But on Narrower Grounds Amid Signs of Rift
A federal appeals panel removed a holding for student Drew Adams based on Title IX, perhaps to ward off a rehearing by the full court.
4 min read
Image of a gavel.
Marilyn Nieves/E+
Law & Courts Schools Will Get At Least $25 Million From Opioid Lawsuit
Lawyers are aiming to place significantly more money into the grant program as school districts' lawsuits against opioid companies continue.
3 min read
This June 17, 2019, photo shows 5-mg pills of Oxycodone.
This June 17, 2019, photo shows 5-mg pills of Oxycodone.
Keith Srakocic/AP
Law & Courts The List of Districts Suing Opioid Companies Is Growing. Do They Stand a Chance?
Schools hope the companies will help pay for the costs of educating and supporting children affected by the ongoing addiction crisis.
2 min read
Pharmaceuticals are seen in North Andover, Mass. on June 15, 2018.
Pharmaceuticals are seen in North Andover, Mass. on June 15, 2018.<br/>
Elise Amendola/AP