When Crystal Meredith of Louisville tried to enroll her young son in Bloom Elementary School, she was told he couldn’t transfer out of Young Elementary, the school where he was already assigned.
Why? Not because of his grades or interests. It was because he is white. As a federal district court later recounted the facts, he “was denied admittance because his transfer to Bloom would have had an adverse effect on Young’s racial composition.”
Did this happen in 1950, when students were routinely barred from certain schools on grounds of skin color? No, it was 2002. Called “managed choice,” the race-based policy is the district’s attempt to achieve the so-called “right” racial balance of students, ensuring that schools have at least 15% African-American students and no more than 50% African-American students.
Not surprisingly, Ms. Meredith objected to her son being turned away from a public school because of his skin color. She filed suit, arguing that he had been denied his equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
This month, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a hopeful message when it agreed to hear this case and a similar one brought by Seattle parents, setting the stage for a decision on the constitutionality of these practices.
Supporters of these policies say that getting a balance of different races in each school can help the academic performance of minority kids. That claim is questionable.
Judges opposing Seattle’s race-based assignments cited this passage from a report co-authored by George Mason University social scientist David Armor: “ . . . racial composition by itself has little effect on raising the achievement of minority students or on reducing the minority-white achievement gap. Some studies show that there is no relationship at all between black achievement and racial composition . . . and other studies show that there is no relationship between the black-white achievement gap and racial composition.”