Brief Fact Summary. The Seattle School Board mandated busing to expand racial integration in its schools. A majority of statewide voters thereupon passed an initiative terminating the policy of mandatory busing.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Although the political majority may restructure the political process to hinder everyone from seeking to obtain benefits from the government, it may not place special burdens on racial minorities within the political process.
Issue. Was the statewide initiative adopted by the citizens of Washington, overriding the Seattle School Board’s policy of mandatory busing, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?
Justice Harry Blackmun (J. Blackmun) stated that despite its facial neutrality, there is little doubt that Initiative 350 was enacted for racially motivated reasons. Desegregation of the public schools has the effect primarily of benefiting minority children and was designed for that reason. Before the adoption of the initiative, the power to determine, which programs were best for the school district – including those involving desegregation – rested entirely with the school board. After the passage of Initiative 350, discretion for all matters except one – those involving integration – were left to the school board’s complete discretion.
No single tradition in public education is more deeply rooted than local control over the operation of schools; local autonomy has long been thought essential both to the maintenance of community concern and support for public schools and to the quality of the educational process.View Full Point of Law