Today’s Supreme Court Decision on School Diversity

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Elsewhere on, Reynolds Holding takes a look at today’s decision. He does not agree with those who see it as the end of Brown v. Board of Education, but says it complicates the picture for school districts across the country:

Justice Stephen Breyer led Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in dissent, arguing that the districts’ use of race served their powerful interest in making sure that students reaped the benefits of learning in racially diverse classrooms. And what about Brown v. Board of Education, Breyer asked incredulously? The 1954 school-desegregation landmark promised “true racial equality,” he wrote, and today’s plurality decision “would break that promise.”

Breyer seems way too pessimistic. Kennedy’s concurrence suggests that schools might figure out an acceptable way to use race in assigning students, and there are apparently five firm votes on this court for allowing race as a factor in creating good public schools. What’s more, the decision did not overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, the court’s 2003 decision upholding the University of Michigan law school’s admissions policy of considering race because students learn better in diverse classrooms.

For the moment, though, hundreds of public school districts may have to consider alternatives for getting a racial mix in classrooms, and their options are limited.