Monday, December 04, 2006

Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson

The Supreme Court heard Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson on Monday, two cases that will largely determine the fate of many of the nation's racial integration programs for the foreseeable future. See Robert Barnes' WAPO story here and Linda Greenhouse's NYT story here. At question is the constitutionality of the voluntary efforts school districts make to encourage racial integration. Arguments in the particular centered on whether integration programs identify students by the color of their skin and use that color as a criterion to achieve a desirable student body.

Many expect based on Monday's testimony and exchanges that the final ruling the Court's conservative majority will take the position that using skin color to achieve balance or representativeness is unconstitutional. The Court's moderate-to-liberal minority will argue as Justice Breyer did today:

“Think, go back to Cooper v. Aaron. Go back to the case where this court with paratroopers had to use tremendous means to get those children into the school. That’s because the society was divided.”

Justice Breyer continued: “Here we have a society, black and white, who elect school board members who together have voted to have this form of integration. Why, given that change in society, which is a good one, how can the Constitution be interpreted in a way that would require us, the judges, to go in and make them take the black children out of the school?”

Something very important is at stake here; Justice Breyer gets close to it. Unfortunately so many of our schools are so heavily segregated--complacently segregated--that Monday's arguments are not germane enough for most people to care. Most, but not all.


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