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Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.  

    School plans that use race alone as a qualifying criterion for school assignments is unconstitutional.

    Facts. The Seattle School district and Jefferson County district have applications that require a parent to state what the race of his or her child is. When determining where to place a child or where to transfer a child both school districts use race as the qualifying factor on where to send the child. Seattle allows students to choose a high school but when too many students choose a school they decide based on siblings in schools and the race of the child. Jefferson was originally ordered to desegregate its schools. In attempts to correct the problem Jefferson has a ratio that there should not be more than 50% black students at a particular school. A parent with a child from each district that was denied a transfer to another school based on the race of their child brought suit.

    Issue.  

      whether a public school that had not operated a legally segregated school or has been found to be unitary may choose to classify students by race and rely upon that classification in making school assignments. 

    Held. No. In order for a state actor to engage in discriminatory actions it must do so in a way that is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. The only interests recognized by this court are: 1 to remedy past intentional discrimination; and 2 to achieve exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas and viewpoints. That is not present here. As to the first interest, Seattle has never been order to desegregate and Jefferson has since become unitary so the need is no longer present here. As to the second interest, both schools separate the students based on specific racial demographics and not in the theme of diversity. These schools need to employ serious good faith considerations of workable race-neutral alternatives.

     

    Dissent.  These Schools are not implementing the harsh rule in Brown were black students were simply not even allowed to go to school. How else can a school remedy the issue of diversity or racial mix if they are not allowed to have plans to ensure an equal balance?

     

    Concurrence.  

     

    Discussion.  

    The schools argue that these ratios help with test scores and objective yardsticks and socialization benefits. Those are not the primary goals of these plans so it is not enough, even if that is part of the outcome.


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