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Document Type

Rejoinder

Theme

OPPOSING ANALYSES OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISION OF JUNE 28, 2007 ON THE PICS v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT DECISION

Abstract

On June 28, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a crucial case involving race-based, public school assignment plans in compulsory education. The quote above from Justice Thomas’s concurrence captures the spirit of the Court’s decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, striking down public school assignment policies based on racial classifications. Quite simply, the Court determined that the policies used in both the Seattle and Louisville school districts violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, it baffled the Court that race could still be used as a determinative factor in participation in a compulsory school system: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

The Seattle School District operates an open choice policy for incoming ninth graders to high school, meaning that students may choose which of the ten high schools they would prefer to attend. Once a high school has been oversubscribed, a set of tiebreakers is triggered to determine who will be admitted to that high school. The first tiebreaker selects students for admission if they already have a sibling attending that school. The second tiebreaker selects students who will not disrupt the racial balance of the school, in relation to the racial balance of the district overall, by more than ten percent.

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