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The Power of Now
Today the United States Department of Education and the Department of Justice issued policy guidance that provides greater clarity and encouragement to school districts and higher education institutions as they seek to explore available options for promoting and maintaining meaningful diversity. Released in two parts —one for K-12 school districts and the other for higher education institutions — the guidance provides concrete and creative examples of programs that comply with constitutional mandates in the Supreme Court’s decisions in two recent cases, Grutter v.Bollinger (2003) and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007).
Significantly, as the new guidance recognizes, a majority of the Supreme Court Justices in those two cases held that educational diversity and avoiding racial isolation are not only compelling governmental interests but also among our country’s highest priorities. Integrated schools and diverse universities are essential to the fabric of our democracy because they provide all children with the skills necessary to participate meaningfully in our nation’s civic life and to flourish in our globalizing workplaces.
“LDF welcomes the new guidance as an important re-affirmation of the federal government’s commitment to the vital work of redeeming the promise of Brown v. Board of Education,” said John Payton, LDF President-Director Counsel.
Payton added, “Children in too many of our nation’s classrooms are isolated by race and socioeconomic class, and therefore have few opportunities to interact, collaborate, and problem-solve with people from different racial and economic backgrounds. It is imperative that school officials and communities across the country work together to achieve truly diverse and inclusive classrooms and that they have the tools necessary to accomplish this worthy goal. The guidance from the federal government, as well as its promised technical assistance, is a positive step. We stand ready to continue the work necessary to ensure all our children have the well-established benefits of a high-quality, inclusive education.”
For seventy years, LDF had been America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. LDF won the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, and has continued to litigate the dozens of school desegregation cases that came in its wake. Recently, LDF represented student intervenors in Gratz v. Bollinger, the companion case to Grutter v. Bollinger, and filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Grutter. LDF has also intervened in and filed amicus briefs in key higher education and voluntary integration cases that shaped the law described in the federal government’s new diversity guidance. LDF played a key role in Parents Involved and thereafter, provided guidance to education associations on promoting diversity. LDF also helped to found the National Coalition on School Diversity. In 2008, LDF and The Civil Rights Project published the often-cited report, Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration – a Manual for Parents, Educators, & Advocates.
The guidance documents are available at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201111.html