Tuesday, October 03, 2006

SCT Series: Meredith v. Jefferson County

Meredith v. Jefferson County asks the Court to examine the use of race conscious student assignments in elementary and secondary schools. (See the Question Presented here). According to an excellent summary of the case provided by Duke Law School, the challenged plan requires each school in the district to have an enrollment of black students between 15 and 50 percent. Placement is determined not just by race, but also by factors such as place of residence, school capacity, program popularity, random draw, and the student's preferences. The lower court, applying strict scrutiny, held that the use of race furthered the government’s compelling interests in racial tolerance and equality.

While discussion of this case has tended to identify it as an "affirmative action" case, the challenged programs vary in important ways from most university affirmative action programs. For example, there is no individualized merit based assessment of the students, and the use of race does not always help minorities obtain admittance to their preferred school. For scholarly commentary on the case, see this article posted today to ExpressO by law professor Eboni Nelson, or this exchange on SCOTUS Blog. For media coverage of the cases, see this from the Louisville Courier-Journal (Louisville is in Jefferson County), or this from CNN Online.


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