Media for Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 04, 2006 in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 28, 2007 in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1
John G. Roberts, Jr.:
Every student is Seattle is labeled white or non-white; every student in Jefferson County is labeled black or other.
If the minimal effect these classifications actually have on student’s assignments suggest that other regimes would be as effective in achieving the district’s stated goals.
Seattle’s racial tiebreaker results in the end only in shifting a few students between the schools.
Seattle can identify only a small number of students who were ultimately affected adversely by the racial tiebreaker.
Similarly, Jefferson County estimates that the racial guidelines account for only 3% of assignments and states the guidelines have minimal impact on the assignment process.
The minimal impact of the districts racial classifications has doubt on the necessity of using racial classifications in the first place.
Classifying and assigning school children according to a binary conception of race is an extreme approach in light of our precedents in history, and requires a greater showing of necessity to justify it.
In a portion of my opinion joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito we further conclude that these assignment plans do not further a compelling interest in racial diversity that the district’s claim to see.
Both school districts assert interest in reducing racial isolations in schools and educating students in a racially diverse learning environment.
The racial classifications employed by the districts however are not narrowly tailored to achieve these articulated goals.
Instead the plans are directed only to racial balance, an objective this Court has repeatedly condemned as to illegitimate.
The plans are tied to each district’s specific racial demographics, rather than to any pedagogic concept of the level of diversity needed to obtain the asserted educational benefits.
The districts offer no evidence that the level of racial diversity necessary to achieve the asserted educational benefits coincides with the particular concept or proportionality they have decided to advance.
Seattle classifies its students as simply white or non-white and seeks enrolments that reflect racial proportionality only in white, non-white terms.
But Seattle’s non-white population is composed of numerous different racial and ethnic groups 24% Asian-American, 23% African-American, 10% Latino, 3% Native-American.
Under Seattle’s definition a school that is 50% white and 50% Asian-American would qualify as racially diverse but a school that is 30% Asian-American, 25% African-American, 25% Latino and 20% white would be considered racially imbalanced.
Such a plan cannot be considered narrowly tailored to be asserted compelling interest in racial diversity.
We have many times over reaffirmed including in Grutter that racial balance is not to be achieved for its own sake.
Accepting racial balancing is a compelling state interest would justify the indefinite imposition of racial proportionality throughout our society.
The principle that racial balancing is not permitted is one of substance not semantics.
Racial balancing is not transformed from patently unconstitutional as we put it in Grutter to a compelling state interest simply by re-labeling it “racial diversity”.
Well the school districts use various verbal formulations to describe the interest they seek to promote; they offer no definition of the interest that suggests that in these cases it differs from racial balance.
We disagree with the dissent’s reliance on the compelling interest in remedying prior segregation to uphold the use of race in these plans.
No one questioned that race conscious remedies maybe use to redress prior illegal segregation.
But neither district has argued that its use of race can be sustained on that basis and these cases are before us because Seattle was not segregated by law and Jefferson County has been found who have eliminated the vestiges of its prior segregation.
The justification for race conscious remedies from our desegregation cases is not applicable here.
The dissenting opinions also argue that a standard overview less stringent than strict scrutiny should be applied to consider the districts use of racial classifications because the districts seek to use race for inclusive purposes and not to exclude.
This argument has been frequently made and frequently rejected.
Our precedence may clear that all racial classifications must be evaluated under strict scrutiny.
In an area as sensitive as the government’s use of express racial classifications we will not put our faith in the good intentions of the government alone.