The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument on December 4 in two major cases that seek to determine whether race may be used as a factor to achieve integrated K-12 public schools. Dean Christopher Edley and Professor Goodwin Liu filed an amicus curiae brief in October on behalf of 19 former chancellors of the University of California, urging the high court to affirm voluntary efforts by local school boards to maintain or create racial integration of public schools throughout California and the nation. The cases stem from policies in the Seattle, Wash., and Jefferson County, Ky., school districts that applied race as a limited factor in school assignment to attain integration.
Edley and Liu, co-directors of Boalt’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, represent former chancellors from all 10 campuses of the University of California who filed the brief in their personal capacities. Liu, who attended oral arguments, described the court as “sharply divided” in its perception of how race is considered in the school assignment plans.
“In these cases, the Supreme Court will write perhaps the final chapter of Brown v. Board of Education‘s legacy in K-12 public education,” Liu said, referring to the historical case in which a unanimous Supreme Court held that equal protection does not allow education to be provided on a segregated basis. “If Brown is used as a sword and not as a shield, it will result in a major cultural reworking of our understanding of Brown, which ended racial apartheid in this country,” Liu added.
The court is expected to issue its decision in the spring. For more on the December 4 oral arguments in the cases, please read the article in The New York Times.