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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

High court limits schools on race



In a ruling that appears to mark the end of the desegregation era, a divided U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday that voluntary integration plans in Seattle and Louisville were unconstitutional.

The court split 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that was joined by the court's other three liberals. Read the full story.

The ruling affects school districts across the nation, including in Tampa Bay. Pinellas school officials have been waiting for the court's guidance as they devise a new plan to assign students to schools that will replace more than 30 years of strict race ratios.

In their work so far, officials had assumed the conservative court would strike down efforts to use race in assigning students to schools. School Board attorney Jim Robinson had already drafted the outlines of a memo to that effect. Moments after the ruling, he said he planned to issue the memo today.

In Hillsborough, where a choice plan has caused enrollment at several schools to become predominantly black, officials had been open to taking stronger steps to integrate schools if the high court allowed it. The ruling appears to end those conversations, though Justice Anthony Kennedy left the door open slightly in his concurring opinion. Kennedy said race may be a component of school district plans designed to achieve diversity.

He agreed with Roberts that the plans in Louisville and Seattle went too far. He said, however, that to the extent that Roberts' opinion could be interpreted as foreclosing the use of race in any circumstance, "I disagree with that reasoning."

-- Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:19am]


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