School districts walk fine line between integration, discrimination

Kerry Lester:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2007 decision to strike down integration plans in two public school districts was based on a simple premise: discrimination is discrimination.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts declared, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
In the wake of that ruling, large, ethnically diverse districts are now finding themselves in uncharted waters.
Though prohibited from using race-conscious measures to integrate their schools, districts also must ensure academic success for all students – regardless of skin color or neighborhoods in which they live.
The class-action racial bias suit pending against Elgin Area School District U-46 is one of the first major school discrimination cases to be decided since last year’s Supreme Court ruling.
Its outcome, experts say, could have for far-reaching effects.
“Class-action school cases are relatively rare,” said Michael Kaufman, Academic Dean and Director of the Child Law and Education Institute at Loyola University Chicago. “This case will almost by definition have profound implications in regards to remedies after last summer’s ruling.”