Friday, January 12, 2007

On MLK Day, Segregation and Integration in Schools

From Ash:

This weekend, a holiday celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., seems like a good time to consider the on-going issue of race in education. I'm not sure but I think neither Dr. King or Justice Thurgood Marshall would be pleased about now things are going at the moment. And when I mean moment, I'm talking about right now, as I type.

This week, the University of Michigan announced that it would resume its admissions process, which it had frozen because of pending litigation over its use (or not) in considering race, sex or ethnicity to determine who was admitted to the university.

Michigan voters adopted a policy that ended any sort of further race-consideration in state school admissions, but – given the almost-immediately ensuing litigation to block that law – the University had asked for a court's permission to continue its in-place admissions practice until that litigation had concluded. Since then, they've won, they've lost – and now Justice John Paul Stevens of US Supreme Court is considering the issue – not the underlying legality of the Michigan law, just whether or not they can use their current admissions policy while the rest of the legal battle is fought.

In the meantime, the University has a school to run – an incoming class to fill – so it's decided to change to the new policy. That means that some of the students have already been accepted and rejected under the old standard, while the rest will be in or out under the new one. Which is a nightmare scenario that will probably result in a slew of lawsuits on its own.

(For more in-depth information on the University of Michigan guagmire, check out our friends over at SCOTUSBlog (Amy Howe and I went to law school together.) But I warn you: it's written by and for lawyers who practice before the Supreme Court, so there's some terrific insight into the law and the Court mechanics, but it's not for the casual reader. It can get very dense. My brain occasionally hurts after reading it.)

Meanwhile, earlier in its term, the Supreme Court heard arguments about two joint-cases related to elementary school integration – suits to stop forced integration: essentially, schools that are trying to maintain integrated levels are being sued to stop that effort. (But, again, Scotusblog is where to go for specifics.)

But there was some good news this week: I just hope people get to hear it.

You may have seen an AP story well, everywhere, on blogs such as USA Today, on local television – the story went that children were turned away from their normal school bus because they spoke English: the school had a language-based "academy" and the buses now only pick up kids based on what academy/language the child speaks.

Today, AP is running an "oops" correction – it turns out that the kids were kicked off the bus because they didn't live in the geographic area the bus serves. Contrary to what the kids' mother had claimed, it had nothing to do with their language.

Still, I think we're still along way away from Dr. King's vision of children playing together, regardless of color or creed.


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