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Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1

Citation. 551 U.S. 701, 127 S.Ct. 2738, 168 L.Ed.2d 508 (2007).
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Citation. 551 U.S. 701, 127 S.Ct. 2738, 168 L.Ed.2d 508 (2007).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiffs challenged student assignment plans based on race on Equal Protection grounds.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The government must demonstrate that the use of individual racial classifications is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.


Defendants voluntarily adopted student assignment plans that relied upon race to determine which public schools certain children may attend. Parents of students denied assignment to particular schools brought suit, arguing that allocating children to different public schools on the basis of race violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection. Historically, the school district in Seattle was not racially segregated. The Jefferson County school system had maintained a segregated school system until 1975.


Whether a public school district may rely upon race-based classifications in assigning students to schools.


No. A public school district may rely upon race-based classifications in assigning students to schools.


Justice Stevens

No history tells us white children struggled to attend black schools. Not a single member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.

Justice Breyer

School authorities are traditionally charged with broad power to formulate and implement educational policy. In the past, districts have been allowed to use race-conscious elements. Plaintiffs today seek greater racial integration for educational and democratic, as well as for remedial, reasons. The case before us today should be treated no differently as there is a compelling interest in promoting or preserving greater racial integration of public schools and the plans pass even the strictest tailoring test.


Justice Roberts

Comparing this case to our previous decision in Grutter, the plans before us today employ only a limited notion of diversity. The districts today offer no evidence that the level of racial diversity necessary to achieve the asserted educational benefits happens to coincide with racial demographics of the respective school districts.

Justice Thomas

The dissent would give school boards a free hand to make decisions on the basis of race. Simply putting students together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that students will learn together or even interact. Our history has taught us to beware of elites bearing racial theories. Our Constitution is color-blind.

Justice Kennedy

Diversity, depending on its meaning and definition, is a compelling educational goal a school district may pursue. If school authorities are concerned that the student-body compositions of certain schools interfere with the objective of offering an equal educational opportunity to all students, they are free to devise race-conscious measures.


Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again– even for very different reasons. For schools that never segregated on the basis of race (i.e., Seattle), or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation, (i.e., Jefferson County), the way to achieve a system of determining admission to public schools is on a non racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

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