2007 June 28

Supreme Court Guts Race-Based School Integration Plans


In the cases of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County School District. Chief Justice John Roberts, citing the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, and joined by four conservative justices, held that any plan for achieving racial integration in public schools that uses a system of classification by race is unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the four liberals on the court, however, held that the state does have “a compelling interest in avoiding racial isolation,” which seems to imply that some race classification programs in some circumstances may be constitutional.

On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan state constitutional amendment forbidding affirmative action in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The decision was 5–4, with very strong dissents from the minority, but it clearly indicated that without a change in the composition of the Court, it was unlikely that the Court would uphold any future programs, whether in employment or in school desegregation, that involved race-based remedies.

Justice Kennedy: “This Nation has a moral and ethical obligation to fulfill its historic commitment to creating an integrated society that ensures equal opportunity for all of its children. A compelling interest exists in avoiding racial isolation, an interest that a school district, in its discretion and expertise, may choose to pursue.”

Learn more: James T. Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and its Troubled Legacy (2001)

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