On a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the use of race in school assignments for the purpose of increasing racial diversity. The cases involved Seattle and Louisville but could affect many other school districts.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” (Chief Justice John) Roberts wrote for four of the court’s nine justices. The ruling applies to school districts that aren’t under a court order to remove the vestiges of past discrimination.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that was joined by the court’s other three liberals. Breyer said the ruling would “threaten the promise” of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, and warned, “this is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy argued that districts can use “race-conscious measures” such as “strategic site selection of new schools; drawing attendance zones with general recognition of neighborhood demographics; allocating resources for special programs; recruiting students and faculty in a targeted fashion; and tracking enrollments, performance, and other statistics by race.”
Balancing enrollments by students’ poverty status would not be banned by the court ruling and would provide de facto racial diversity in many cities.