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Missouri v. Jenkins (Jenkins II)

    Brief Fact Summary.

    As a segregation remedial order, a federal court ordered Missouri (Defendant) to fund raises for teachers and staff in the Kansas City Metropolitan School District and to fund magnet programs. Missouri argued that these orders went beyond the court’s authority.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A district court may not create an intra-district segregation remedial plan with the purpose of attracting nonminority students into the district.

    Facts.

    The issue of desegregation in Kansas City schools was litigated for years. In 1985, a federal district court issued a remedial order, requiring the state of Missouri to create a plan to bring magnet schools to the Kansas City Metropolitan School District and to improve the school facilities within the district. The goals of the plan were to attract nonminority students to the school district and to provide the minority students in the district an equivalent education to one absent the effects of segregation. The court ordered the state to fund salary increases for teachers and staff within the school district and to fund remedial magnet programs for so long as student achievement scores stayed at or below national averages. Missouri appealed, arguing that the district court’s orders exceeded its remedial authority. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    Can a court create a segregation remedial plan which has a goal of attracting nonminority students into the district?

    Held.

    (Rehnquist, C.J.) No. A district court may not create an intra-district segregation remedial plan with the purpose of attracting nonminority students into the district. [The decision and disposition are not included in the casebook.]

    Concurrence.

    (Thomas, J.) Desegregation of schools involves ending intentional segregation, but does not mean that minority and nonminority students must attend the same schools. The district court’s order implies that black children cannot succeed unless they go to school with white children. The fact that a school is predominately black is not an indication of intentional, unconstitutional segregation. It may instead be a result of families’ choices about where to live.  The district itself is over two-thirds black, so it is unsurprising that some of the schools are also predominately black. De facto segregation does not violate the constitution, de jure segregation does. The government cannot discriminate on the basis of race. The court’s only question must be whether the state is intentionally discriminating against minorities. This analysis can be done by looking at state action and not social science. The Constitution does not prevent individuals from choosing to live, work, or go to school together. As long as the state is not interfering on the basis of race, the courts should step aside. Black children can learn as well in predominately black schools as in a more integrated school. The idea that integration is the only way that black children can learn suggests that black children are inferior to white children. Instead, predominately black schools may instill pride in black students and their communities, allowing them to be as successful as nonminority students.

    Discussion.

    Justice Souter dissented in this case and argued that the majority’s holding limiting the district court’s remedial authority was contrary to the precedent established in Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 (1974). Some commentators agree, stating that Jenkins II brought an end to court-ordered desegregation of schools through reliance on a narrow, case-specific point without a discussion of the precedent from which it seemed to depart.


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