Fight over School Segregation Intensifies: New Supreme Court Integration Ruling Another Blow to 1954 Brown Ruling

Article excerpt

IN JUNE, IN A RULING THAT THE NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE Fund said was an assault on "any and all efforts to address racial inequality," the Supreme Court found race-based school assignment plans implemented in Louisville, Kentucky, and Seattle unconstitutional. Four justices concurred with Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion that these voluntary school plans did not use race in a "narrowly-tailored" approach and that race-conscious programs are unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts concluded that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

"It is the 'just say no to racism' solution," says Aderson Francois, a professor and director of the Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic who filed an amicus brief on the case. He says the comment is an "extraordinary injustice" given the realities of this country's history with race. "[Roberts'] comment suggests that the solution to the color line has been staring us in the face all this time."

Indeed, Kentucky and Washington were among the less segregated states for black students, according to a study by the Harvard Civil Rights Project (now The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles), indicating that they were doing something right. The report found that public schools nationwide are increasingly segregated, with New York, Illinois, and Michigan ranking among the highest for the percentage of black students attending 90% to 100% minority schools (See "Progress Undone," Facts & Figures, August 2006).

"I got into the case on behalf of African American students," says lawyer Ted Gordon, referring to a group of black parents who felt it unfair that school board integration plans kept their children from attending a local magnet school. He asserts that under the voluntary integration plans in Louisville, institutional racism was at its worst and that the Louisville school district often enrolled black students in low-performing white schools. …