Capistrano Schools’ Boundary Policy Constitutional, Judge Rules

Orange County Register, August 31, 2006

Santa Ana—A judge in Santa Ana on Wednesday ruled that the Capistrano Unified School District’s policy permitting the use of race when drawing school attendance boundaries is constitutional, an attorney said.

The attendance boundaries were drawn by the district as a way to assign students to the new San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano.

San Clemente father Michael Winsten and a newly organized group, Neighborhood Schools for Our Kids, challenged the boundaries, arguing they violated Proposition 209, which prohibits districts from discrimination against or granting preferential racial treatment to anyone.

A number of civil rights groups joined the case on behalf of a group of parents who supported the district’s ability to consider race to avoid segregated schools.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler ruled in favor of the district and the parents, said Catherine Lhamon, a racial justice director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

“We are delighted that the court reaffirmed the importance of integration in public schools and held that some uses of race are indeed constitutional under the California Constitution,” Lhamon said.

“The decision sends a strong message to school districts throughout the state that they should continue efforts to integrate their schools in ways that satisfy the law,” she said.

A spokesperson for the plaintiff could not be reached for comment.

Andler said the mere “consideration” or “taking into account of” racial/ethnic composition “does not necessarily seem to ‘discriminate’ or grant ‘preferences’ based on race,”’ according to an ACLU statement.

“This decision is very momentous; it is what I was hoping for,” said Capistrano parent Tareef Nashashib. “As a parent, I went into this thinking the district was doing a good job.

“The court decision confirms that the school district was going about things right,” he said. “Decisions like this one are what make our country great—they show that racism and discrimination stops at the Constitution.”

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School officials said the district would have been vulnerable to lawsuits if it had not acted to balance racial makeup.

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