Supporting Racially Inclusive Schools
Yesterday, briefs supporting school districts’ authority to adopt race conscious student admissions plans in public schools were due to the Supreme Court. The plans in both cases, Meredith v. Jefferson School District and Committee of Involved Parents v. Seattle School Board, were upheld in their respective circuits — and are extraordinarily important to anyone who is concerned about racial integration in our public schools. As the NAACP Legal Defense Fund stated in its website today, these cases give the Court an opportunity to preserve some measure of integration in our public schools, or to end the era of Brown. In interests of full disclosure, I co-authored a brief with my colleague Michelle Adams on behalf of the National PTA arguing that education in a multi-racial context is a compelling government interest. Our brief, and the many other amicus briefs submitted in the case, are available here.
Many of the multiple amicus briefs focused on the specific benefits to children from primary and secondary education in a multi-racial setting. These briefs assume that the parties have the burden of meeting the strict scrutiny standard — thus establishing that the use of race this context serves a compelling interest and that the means are narrowly tailored. Others, however, argue a very different point. As Michelle Adams noted here in June when the Supreme Court took these cases, in Judge Kozinski’s concurrence in the 9th Circuit, he disputed that strict scrutiny applied in the context of non-magnet public schools. He suggested that any admissions plan that does not involve competition between racial groups and does not favor one race over the other does not carry any sort of racial stigma — and therefore that strict scrutiny need not apply. NAACP LDF presents this argument most thoroughly and completely in its amicus brief
These cases will undoubtedly garner a great deal of attention, both because of the importance of the issues to public schools throughout the country, and also because they will give us a sense of how the loss of Justice O’Connor and the ascension of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito will affect the Court’s decisionmaking on race issues more generally.