Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1

Key Facts– The schools in this case chose to adopt student assignment plans relying on race to determine which schools children would attend. Parents sue, because their children were excluded from some potential schools solely based on race.

Issue– Can a public school system classify students by race and rely on that in making school assignments?

Holding– Only if necessary to correct past discrimination

Result– Racial classification plan overturned, lower court overruled

Reasoning– Only one of the two school districts discussed ever had a segregation program in the past. At present, its past segregation has already been remedied. There is no legitimate rationale for the present system that would survive the Court’s strict scrutiny. Further, the Chief Justice argues: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

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Grutter v. Bollinger

Key Facts– University of Michigan used race as a factor in making law school admissions decisions, amalgamated with other forms of “diversity,” alongside other elements of its admissions criteria. A White student sued to fight her rejection, arguing that this policy weighed against her.

Issue– Is diversity a compelling state interest that justifies race-related admissions policies in public universities?

Holding– Yes

Result– Policy affirmed

Reasoning– The university’s policies make race one of various diversity factors that add a “plus” to a candidate’s application, rather than excluding people based on racing or including people purely based on race. It does not constitute a quota, which would be unconstitutional. The Court additionally notes that in time, race will no longer be a necessary consideration in admissions decisions.

Brown v. Board of Education

Key Facts– Several state laws segregating their schools were subjected to legal challenges on the grounds that they were not “equal” and could not be made equal.

Issue– Does segregation violate Equal Protection when present in public schools?

Holding– Yes

Result– Segregation in schools ruled unconstitutional

Reasoning– The Fourteenth Amendment Was intended by its strongest proponents to eliminate all legal distinctions between American citizens. Public education was not especially prevalent at that time, particularly in the South, which makes it hard to say how the Amendment was intended to apply to schools. However, the Court considers it important here to examine whether segregation, even if facilities were to be equal, would lead to unequal educational opportunities.Here, they conclude that it does.

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973)

Key Facts– Parents in Texas living in poorer areas felt their children were in sub-par schools due to a lack of property tax funding in their areas. Their parents sued to change the Texas system of financing public education.

Issue– Is there a constitutional right to education? If so, can Texas be sued for not providing an equal level of education to everyone?

Holding– No and no

Result– Suit dismissed.

Reasoning– Just because a state service is important, or even arguably necessary, does not make it a fundamental right. Here, there is also no clear discrimination against a well-defined category of the poor, so Equal Protection does not apply. The Court also notes there is no right to education in the Constitution.

Guess not.
Guess not.

Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (1925)

Key Facts– Oregon required that all youths attend public school, and parents and guardians obtained orders of restraint against this.

Issue– Can a state compel all youths to attend public schools?

Holding– No

Results– Law overturned

Reasoning– The state is not acting under exigent circumstances here. Also, children are not “mere creature[s] of the state.” Their families have a right and a duty to nurture them, which includes providing an education.