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National NOW Times >> Winter 2007  >> Article

NOW Rallies to Save Affirmative Action

By Rose Afriyie, Field Organizer

Affirmative Action Rally

NOW staff photo by Holly Anne Manning

On Monday, December 4, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of voluntary local efforts to promote diverse student bodies and prevent segregation in public elementary and secondary schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and Seattle, Washington. The cases challenged the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education , the landmark case that ended legal segregation in public schools.

NOW activists rallied outside the Court in support of the school districts, and NOW President Kim Gandy addressed the crowd: "This is a day for all of us, black and white, to stand up against segregation of all kinds. The residents and educators in these districts sought to create a school system where girls and boys of all races learn together."

Like many districts around the country, the two school districts in these cases struggle with racially segregated schools resulting from sharply segregated neighborhoods. In the Kentucky case, the district adopted a voluntary integration plan to achieve African-American enrollment of no less than 15 percent and no more than 50 percent in each public school, and for schools outside of this 15-50 range allowing district officials to consider race in making student assignment decisions. In the Washington case, the school district allowed students to choose from among ten schools, considering race only in heavily imbalanced schools. In both cases, the plaintiffs claim that the policies constitute reverse discrimination against white students.

In addition to their potential for limiting the constitutional mandate of Brown, these cases will shed some light on how the two new justices regard the issue of race-conscious remedies, and whether they will apply Court precedents related to college and law school admissions to community-led decisions in public K-12 schools.

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