Integration Without Classification: Moving Toward Race-Neutrality in the Pursuit of Public Elementary and Secondary School Diversity

Ever since the Supreme Court’s invalidation of racially segregated public schools in Brown v. Board of Education, America has wrestled with the challenge of successfully dismantling educational apartheid. In recent years, the federal judiciary has largely retreated from enforcing desegregation in school districts that were once under court supervision for engaging in intentional racial discrimination, finding that the vestiges of past discrimination have been satisfactorily ameliorated. In some such unitary school districts, as well as in districts in which no intentional segregation was ever identified by the courts, boards of education, have voluntarily implemented student assignment plans designed to increase racial, diversity. Many of these plans, particularly those explicitly relying on individual racial classifications, have come under legal attack as unconstitutional violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the absence of clear Supreme Court precedent on the matter, federal courts have struggled with the question of what role, if any, racial classifications may constitutionally play in the assignment of public school students.