Administration: Diversity justifies race-conscious policies

 Schools and colleges can consider consider race and ethnicity to promote diversity, advises the Education and Justice Departments in new “guidances” that reverse Bush Administration policy.

“Diverse learning environments promote development of analytical skills, dismantle stereotypes, and prepare students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in announcing the guidance Dec. 2 with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Race-neutral policies should be considered first, but need not be tried before being deemed “unworkable,” according to the administration. And race or ethnicity can be a “plus factor,” but not a “defining” factor.

“A school district should not evaluate student applicants in a way that makes a student’s race his or her defining factor,” says the K-12 guidance, in reference to decisions on competitive academic programs, for example.

Civil rights groups have been lobbying for the changes.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide in January whether to consider a white student’s challenge of the use of race in University of Texas admissions policy.

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