L.A. Unified Sued Over Race Issues

Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 13

An anti-affirmative action group filed suit Wednesday against the Los Angeles Unified School District, charging that its efforts to racially integrate schools are in violation of Proposition 209, the 1996 statewide initiative that banned preferential treatment by race.

Two lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by the American Civil Rights Foundation, which is associated with Proposition 209 author Ward Connerly. The suits take aim at three desegregation tools used by the district: magnet schools, voluntary busing and the consideration of race in determining where teachers will work.

If successful, the suits could have a profound effect on the nation’s second-largest school district, which has struggled to integrate schools even as the percentage of non-Latino whites has dwindled from a majority of all students in the 1960s to just 9% today.

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The Los Angeles school district agreed to a voluntary desegregation plan in 1981, two years after ending a contentious, three-year experiment with mandatory busing. As part of the plan, mandated by a federal judge, the school district created the programs being attacked by Connerly’s group.

The largest of these is the magnet school program, which was aimed at attracting a diverse student body to niche schools that offered specialized curricula. As of the last school year, there were 53,329 students enrolled in magnets out of a total district enrollment of 742,090.

While magnets are voluntary, they are required to accept students according to a formula aimed at achieving racial and ethnic diversity. This means that white students compete with white students for a given number of slots, and nonwhites compete with other nonwhites.

Connerly said his organization had only recently turned its attention to public schools because it had previously been preoccupied with defending the constitutionality of Proposition 209.

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