ADL Encouraged By Supreme Court's Recognizing Racial Diversity As a Compelling Interest in Public Education
Disappointed that Plans Addressing
Segregation Were Struck Down
New York, NY, June 28, 2007 … While disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional voluntary efforts of public school districts in Seattle and Louisville to address racial segregation in their schools, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was encouraged by the high court's finding that government has a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity in America's public schools.
Today's 5-4 decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education struck down the Seattle and Louisville plans, which used race as a factor in assigning students to schools. ADL filed an amicus brief in the cases, arguing that those plans were constitutionally sound.
Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
Although we are disappointed that the Supreme Court invalidated the voluntary efforts of public school districts in Seattle and Louisville to address racial segregation in their schools, we are encouraged that in his concurrence – the controlling opinion in a 5-4 decision – Justice Anthony Kennedy correctly and importantly asserted that the government has a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity and avoiding racial isolation in American public schools. We endorse his view that "this nation has a moral and ethical obligation to fulfill its historic commitment to creating an integrated society that ensures equal opportunity for all of its children" – and his acknowledgment that race can be one factor, among many others, taken into account to achieve that objective.
It is unfortunate that Justice Kennedy joined four other Justices to strike down the specific Seattle and Louisville plans. We believe those plans offered a legitimate, thoughtful, and constitutionally sound way to promote equality, diversity, and cross-racial understanding.
It is troubling that four Justices filed an opinion that rejects the fundamental concept that the government has a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity – a position which threatens the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education. In our view, it is difficult to conceive of a more compelling government interest that is of greater legitimacy and importance than the desegregation of our nation's public schools – and the cross-racial and inter-ethnic appreciation that comes from integrated schools.
ADL continues to oppose quotas and racial preferences and the use of race as a proxy for personal characteristics in selecting persons in an application process. However, we are convinced that it is possible – and may even be necessary – for a desegregation plan to be race-conscious without constituting a racial preference.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.