Monday, May 13, 2013
A few days ago, the Sixth Circuit in Spurlock v. Fox rejected a claim by an African American community challening Nashville's student assignment plan. Nashville's school district was under court ordered desegregation until 1998. The current challenge centers around the district's adoption of a neighborhood schools plan that retained some transfer options for students, but which retained few options and less integration.
An interesting aspect of the case was the plaintiffs' allegation that the mere consideration of racial demographics in adopting the new plan amounts to a racial classification that should trigger strict scrutiny. This same argument was recently made in Doe v. Lower Merion, 665 F.3d 524 (3d Cir. 2011), although there the challenge was to a racially integrative plan. Both Spurlock and Doe rejected this argument, relying on Justice Kennedy's controlling opinion in Parents Involved v. Seattle. Thus, the opinion, although a negative outcome for African American students seeking access to better schools in Nashville, is favorable precedent for school districts that want to consider racial demographics to create integrative assigment policies. The Spurlock opinion is available here: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/13a0135p-06.pdf
The case also raise key issues about equal access to quality educational opportunities and the meaning of intentional discrimination, which I will address in upcoming posts.