Thursday, June 28, 2007

Boalt Hall Releases Media Advisory

Berkeley, CA—June 28, 2007.

The United States Supreme Court today sent school districts “back to the drawing board” in devising student assignment plans to promote racial integration, even as it recognized the compelling importance of avoiding racial isolation and achieving a diverse student body in public schools, according to Goodwin Liu, assistant professor of law and co-director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

Although the Court held unconstitutional voluntary school integration policies in Seattle, WA, and Louisville, KY, the cases ended in a “4-1-4” split among the nine Justices. Four Justices, in an opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, endorsed a broad rule against the use of race in student assignment. Four other Justices, in a dissenting opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, would have upheld the plans. Justice Kennedy, in a separate and controlling opinion, strongly endorsed the goal of racial integration in public schools while significantly limiting the use of race to classify individual students on the basis of race.

“Today a five-Justice majority of the Court recognized that racial integration of public schools remains a compelling and enduring aspiration for our society,” said Professor Liu. “Justice Kennedy’s controlling opinion leaves open several avenues for race-conscious measures to achieve integration, including strategic attendance zoning and school siting decisions as well as magnet schools and special programs. The upshot is that the Court has sent school districts literally back to the drawing board to devise creative assignment plans to integrate our public schools.”

“It is significant that a majority of the Court—Justice Kennedy and the four dissenting Justices—rejected Chief Justice Roberts’s attempt to read Brown v. Board of Education as a categorical rule of colorblindness,” according to Professor Liu. “It is remarkable that the Chief Justice of the United States would cite Brown to defeat not defend school integration, and five Justices rejected this view as deeply a historical.”

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