In the “biggest school desegregation ruling in more than a decade,” the Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 to reject public school assignment plans “that take account of students’ race.” The AP reports:
The decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it leaves public school systems with a limited arsenal to maintain racial diversity. …
[The case] was led by parents challenging the way race is used to assign students to schools for the purpose of integration.
Like the multiple cases decided in favor of the Bush administration and corporations earlier this week, the majority was formed by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.
UPDATE: Read the decision HERE.
UPDATE II: Chief Justice Roberts, who authored the majority opinion, wrote, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In fact, a key study by University of Wisconsin professor Douglas Harris, using empirical data gathered from No Child Left Behind, shows that desegregation remains the most effective way of closing this gap:
– African Americans and Hispanics learn more in integrated schools. Minorities attending integrated schools also perform better in college attendance and employment.
– Controlled choice and other forms of desegregation benefit minority students.
– Racial integration is a rare case where an educational policy appears to improve educational equity at little financial cost.
Finally, what of the hope and promise of Brown? For much of this Nation’s history, the races remained divided. It was not long ago that people of different races drank from separate fountains, rode on separate buses, and studied in separate schools. In this Court’s finest hour, Brown v. Board of Education challenged this history and helped to change it. For Brown held out a promise. … It sought one law, one Nation, one people, not simply as a matter of legal principle but in terms of how we actually live. [...]
Many parents, white and black alike, want their children to attend schools with children of different races. Indeed, the very school districts that once spurned integration now strive for it. … The plurality would decline their modest request.
The plurality is wrong to do so. The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown. To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown. The plurality’s position, I fear, would break that promise. This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret.
UPDATE IV: In his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts writes, “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.” But as Justice John Paul Stevens notes in his separate dissent, there is a “cruel irony” in Roberts’s reliance on Brown:
The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools. In this and other ways, the Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court’s most important decisions.
UPDATE V: SCOTUSblog notes that this Supreme Court term has produced a “higher share of 5-4 decisions than any term in the last decade.”
UPDATE VI: According to AP, the Court has previously ruled that “schools have responsibility to desegregate, even in districts where schools had not been segregated by law.”
UPDATE VII: Roberts’s classification of the integration plans as “discrimination on the basis of race” is directly contradicted by well-respected conservative Judge Alex Kozinski, who wrote in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion of the case that:
The plan does not segregate the races; to the contrary, it seeks to promote integration. There is no attempt to give members of particular races political power based on skin color. There is no competition between the races, and no race is given a preference over another. That a student is denied the school of his choice may be disappointing, but it carries no racial stigma and says nothing at all about that individual’s aptitude or ability.