The two U.S. Supreme Court decisions released yesterday may stand to greatly affect the integration policies in the 15,000 K-12 school districts in the nation.

One school system – Lynn School District in Lynn, Mass. – had a voluntary desegregation plan that was challenged and upheld in federal court on June 7. Before yesterday’s decision, however, Citizens for Preservation of Constitutional Rights – the plaintiff in the first case – had challenged and was planning to appeal the lower court’s decision in the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We have to study the decision more but at first glance it would appear the Supreme Court is throwing the 14th Amendment to the side,” CPCR President Chester Powell said.

He added it is now unsure whether or not they will be able to successfully appeal the decision.

“(We) have to consult with staff attorneys and study the decision to decide if we’re appealing. The net result is (that) … racial discrimination is the essence of the decision,” Powell said.

Lynn is a city outside of Boston that enacted a voluntary student transfer policy in the ’80s.

“They did it for a variety of reasons. They realized their neighborhoods were being increasingly segregated,” said Chinh Quang Le, assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He added the program they enacted allowed students to attend neighborhood schools and transfer if in doing so the transfer would decrease the segregation in the sending school and increase the diversity in the receiving school.

Le said that today, out of the 187,000 students in Lynn, one-third take advantage of this plan. “It is more integrated now, and the plan is minimally intrusive they can always go to their neighborhood school,” he said.

With regard to the case’s provision concerning racial diversity, more K-12 schools may be following Lynn’s lead, said Lisa Soronen, staff attorney of the National School Board Association, which represents all of the school boards in the nation.

“I think lawyers will argue that since (diversity) is a compelling interest in higher education it is also a compelling interest in K-12. A younger, more impressionable group is being exposed from day one. It becomes more of a life experience if (they are exposed) at age five than 18. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” Soronen said.

Soronen said an important impact of the court’s decisions is that they only allow certain narrowly tailored plans. The court upheld the Law School’s policy and rejected that of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. This allows schools to take these two plans and compare them so they know what must go into a plan that would constitute a compelling state interest. Schools now have a good idea how to do it lawfully; there is certain clarity under the law, she added.

“The Law School can provide a good road map. This plan is good. When schools can mimic there is less ambiguity. This will encourage (schools) to take on voluntary affirmative action plans because it is more likely they can make (it) compliant with the law,” Soronen said.

Gary Kreep, executive director of the U.S. Justice Foundation, a non-profit organization that defends underpriveleged students – said he is in a unique position. Although most of the clientele he has defended claim the title of minority, he remains firmly against affirmative action.

“It’s the kids that get screwed. I’m a grandfather and when I see kids get screwed because of race it makes me very mad. Though we’re a conservative law firm our clients are minorities because they’re the ones getting screwed by the school system,” Kreep said.

“This (the Supreme Court decision) is another nail in the coffin of the quota system. Problems with law school decisions will encourage schools to use quota systems,” Kreep said.

He added he sees no problem in trying to remedy past discrimination. But unless people have been subject to discrimination based on race, they should not benefit, he said.

This anti-race-conscious admissions stance is shared by Rochford resident Sue Gordon, who said, “I’m glad the Supreme Court turned (the LSA admissions policy) down, because our child is penalized. It is just as prejudiced for the sake of not going the other way. It is prejudiced in itself, (people) should be admitted based on merit not based on who or what they are.”

But the controversial nature of this case goes beyond courtrooms to family disagreements, said her son, Ben Terhaar, a senior at a mostly white Rockford high school. He said he agrees with the minority benefits that affirmative action allows, “they probably had less opportunity in high school so they wouldn’t have as much merit as I would because of this lack of opportunity.”

Detroit Cass Technical High School sophomore Ebony Ross said she would like to see her school diversify. “Our school is mostly black, whereas West Bloomfield is mostly Caucasian. We should be exposed to each other … we have to come as one,” she said.

Michigan is not as diverse as other places around the world, said Chris Caffee, a senior at Yokota High, located on a military base in Japan.

“I don’t really notice diversity or anything. It’s not anything I really think about. In the military we move around always and there are different kinds of people,” Chris said.

His mother, Lisa Caffee, said her perspective as a parent allowed her to fully appreciate the exposure to diverse races on the military base. She said when they lived in Big Rapids they noticed the lack of diversity that the neighborhood offered.

“(Now) it’s so great for Chris have friends from different places. A lot of them are bilingual. He doesn’t even think of it as diverse. It’s just life, it’s great,” Lisa said.

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