The Supreme Court got it right last week when they ruled against school districts assigning classes by race in Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington.
The districts on trial were using race as a factor to help determine where students attended school. Both programs were hoping to produce more diversity in schools by bringing children of different races to the same school.
In Seattle, the district's plan attempted to overcome the effects of the city's segregated housing patterns near its ten high schools. Their "open choice" policy used factors including geographic proximity and whether a student has a sibling at the school he or she prefers, as well as race, in determining where students attend school. A similar program in Louisville used race as a factor to create diverse schools in hopes of overcoming decades of segregation.
After the 5-4 ruling - the majority opinion was led by Chief Justice John Roberts - America's public schools may need to rethink how they assign students. Some legal experts said school systems may have to reconsider attendance, transfer and other academic policies to ensure they're not violating the court's new standards of when a student's skin color can be used to achieve racial balances on school grounds.
"Any school district that's going to be interested in using [race] in some fashion, they've got to be extremely careful," said Rocco Testani, an Atlanta lawyer who represented the Fulton County school system in a 2003 desegregation case. "They cannot use race as a factor in admissions, unless it's narrowly tailored ... You've got to consider alternatives. You've got to look at diversity in a holistic way. It can be a factor but not the factor."
In this day and age, I think it's ridiculous that we need to factor race to diversify our schools. It's been over fifty years since the historic jury in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka ruled in favor of integration and helped spearhead the civil rights movement. If we still need to bus certain kids to certain schools based on the color of their skin, then Martin Luther King's dream surely did not come true.
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