Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. 

PRIMARY HOLDING

Achieving racially balanced school districts does not amount to a compelling government interest that satisfies strict scrutiny.

FACTS

In order to create a numerical racial balance among its 10 public high schools, the Seattle School District assigned students among them. However, Seattle did not have a history of racially segregated schools. In Louisville, Kentucky, the Jefferson County Public Schools voluntarily implemented a system of student assignments that set quota percentages for African-American students in each school. While the County had been under a desegregation order from 1975 to 2000, this order had been dissolved when a federal judge found that it had largely solved the problem of segregated schools.

Both school districts were sued by parents of children who were denied admission to certain schools. The parents argued that the assignment plans violated the Equal Protection Clause, but the plans survived review by the lower courts.OPINIONS

Plurality

  • John G. Roberts, Jr. (Author)
  • Antonin Scalia
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Strict scrutiny applies to any government classification based on race. This means that the government must identify a compelling interest and show that it has used a narrowly tailored means to further it. Numerical racial balance in a district’s schools is far from a compelling interest, and in fact it is not even a legitimate purpose. Considering the precedent of Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), which is only partly applicable because it concerns higher education, it is apparent that educational institutions must use diversity as one of several admissions criteria rather than setting strict quotas. Moreover, the school districts did not consider other options that might have been more narrowly tailored.

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