Invoking Brown, SCOTUS strikes down school diversity plans





In a decision of sweeping importance to educators, parents and schoolchildren across the country, the Supreme Court today sharply limited the ability of school districts to manage the racial makeup of the student bodies in their schools.

The court voted, 5 to 4, to reject diversity plans from Seattle and Louisville, Ky., declaring that the districts had failed to meet “their heavy burden” of justifying “the extreme means they have chosen — discriminating among individual students based on race by relying upon racial classifications in making school assignments,” as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the court....

The rationale of the chief justice’s opinion relied in part on the historic 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed segregation in public schools — a factor that the dissenters on the court found to be a cruel irony, and which they objected to in emotional terms.

Chief Justice Roberts said the officials in Seattle and in Jefferson County, Ky., which includes Louisville, had failed to show that their plans considered race in the context of a larger educational concept, and therefore did not pass muster.

“In the present cases,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, recalling words from an earlier Supreme Court ruling, “race is not considered as part of a broader effort to achieve ‘exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.’ ”

“Even as to race,” he went on, “the plans here employ only a limited notion of diversity, viewing race exclusively in white/nonwhite terms in Seattle and black/other terms in Jefferson County.

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