Calif. Court OKs Race Admissions: Ruling Tailored for Experimental School to Conduct Research but Could Apply Elsewhere
Egelko, Bob, Black Issues in Higher Education
Calif. Court OKs Race Admissions: Ruling tailored for experimental school to conduct research but could apply elsewhere
SAN FRANCISCO -- An experimental University of California-Los Angeles elementary school here that uses racial admissions to study learning skills survived another court test this month but still faces more legal challenges.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the Los Angeles school legally could deny admission to a 4-year-old Asian American girl because race is the basis of the school's research.
Although narrow in its scope, the ruling eventually could have broader impact in this racially diverse state because several colleges and universities have set up similar programs to help improve secondary education.
The University of California-San Diego established an elementary school this fall, for instance, to help boost the secondary education provided to low-income and minority students so that they can more easily get into top-flight universities.
In addition, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, California State University-Dominguez Hills, Orange Coast College and several other colleges have so-called "middle colleges" -- high schools on college campuses for specialized student populations.
"This case has a lot to do with academic freedom and the right of researchers to establish the subject matter of their research without excessive governmental interference," Joseph D. Mandel, the University of California-Los Angeles' vice chancellor for legal affairs told the Los Angeles Times.
The case against the university was filed with the help of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative group that has been at the lead in fighting numerous anti-affirmative action court cases here in the western United States.
Foundation attorney Sharon Browne warns the appeals court's ruling could lead to "more classrooms set up as educational experiments and racial quota systems set up to determine who is allowed in the classroom."
The child's lawyers say they will appeal to the full court. Her parents also have filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court under Proposition 209, the 1996 California initiative that bans race and sex preferences in state and local education, employment and contracting. The first lawsuit was based on federal civil rights law.
"The basis for their justifying doing research based on racial quotas is that there are differences in the way the races think," says James K.T. Hunter, the child's father, who is an attorney. "This is the first time any opinion will have been based on an assumption that the races think or learn differently."
Dennis Perluss, a lawyer for the school, contends that the research is valid and that it is based on numerous studies suggesting that "the fact of race has an impact on learning. What scholars are trying to figure out is why and how, and how do we overcome that. Starting with a 4-year-old is really the way to deal with the issue. …