Thursday, June 28, 2007

Equal Justice Society: Critical but Optimistic

(June 28, 2007) - The Equal Justice Society issued the following statement today regarding the Supreme Court decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education:

"We're encouraged that school districts may continue to use available tools to achieve the critical goals of equal educational opportunity and inclusion that a majority of the Court endorsed today," said Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, founding and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, and board chair of the Equal Justice Society.

"Just as race can still be considered to achieve the goal of attaining integration and diversity in K-12 education," continued Ogletree, "this decision continues to endorse the core ruling of the University of Michigan affirmative action decisions and the ability to use race as a factor to achieve the compelling interest of diversity in education."

"Although the Court struck down the specific school integration plans, a majority of the Justices recognize and acknowledge that educational diversity and eliminating segregation in all its divisive forms remains a compelling governmental interest. Fortunately, school districts can continue to take race into account to achieve these important ends," said Kimberly Thomas Rapp, EJS director of law and public policy.

"While we disagree with the ruling since it limits options available to school districts to eliminate racial segregation, we agree with the majority of Justices that believe school districts can affirmatively consider race as a factor among many when pursuing diversity and inclusion in our schools. Many options remain open to schools that allow districts to take race into account, including factors such as site selection, drawing attendance zones and magnet schools," said Thomas Rapp.

"It's troubling that four members of the Court -- including the two most recent Justices nominated by President Bush -- would have outlawed almost all effective efforts to promote inclusion in our nation's schools. They would have preferred to tear apart Brown v. Board of Education, which ended de jure segregation, from its historical roots and would have used it to blind school districts to existing racial segregation in their communities. The extreme position taken by these Justices highlights the importance of closer scrutiny of justices and judges nominated by the President."

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