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Note: Accepting Justice Kennedy's Challenge: Reviving Race-Conscious School Assignments in the Wake of Parents Involved

By Charles E. Dickinson. Full text here.

More than half a century after Brown v. Board of Education mandated an end to racial segregation in American schools, districts nationwide remain crippled by racially homogenous classrooms and a widening achievement gap between white and minority students. Racial segregation is rising, minority student achievement is falling, and race-neutral solutions alone consistently fail to stem the tide. Against this backdrop, the Supreme Court overturned race-conscious school assignment programs that aimed to integrate the Seattle and Louisville school systems. The plurality opinion in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle Public School District No. 1 commanded districts to stop classifying students based on race. Providing the crucial fifth vote, however, Justice Kennedy limited the Court’s holding by finding a compelling educational interest in racial diversity.

Parents Involved altered the path to Brown’s promise of desegregation, but Justice Kennedy’s opinion ensured that we are not at a dead end. Taking account of Justice Kennedy’s well-defined concerns, this Note urges school districts to adopt assignment policies that broaden the concept of diversity, avoid racial quotas, and mandate informed reviews of the progress towards educational equality. In addition, in an effort to create a comprehensive plan that has the greatest likelihood of lasting integration, this Note suggests that school districts should include race-neutral alternatives that improve diversity.