SAN FRANCISCO'A California Appellate Court ruled today that Berkeley Unified School District's plan to voluntarily desegregate its schools does not violate Proposition 209. The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights are among the legal advocacy groups that represented parents in support of the district's efforts to ensure desegregated schools and classrooms. Other groups representing the parents include the ACLU of Southern California, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The District is represented by attorneys at Keker & Van Nest.
The Court held that Proposition 209 does not prohibit the use or consideration of race in voluntary desegregation plans, so long as those plans do not grant preferences to or discriminate against individuals or groups based on race. Specifically, the Court clarified that school districts can take into account the racial demographics of a neighborhood in which a student lives in assigning that student to a particular school.
"This case continues an unbroken line of cases rejecting Ward Connerly's organization's attempts to expand the reach of Proposition 209," said Catherine Lhamon, racial justice director for the ACLU of Southern California. "In addition, the decision protects the important principle that school districts can -- and constitutionally must -- take steps to offer desegregated schools."
BUSD's school assignment policy is designed to promote the values of socioeconomic and racial diversity, and looks at several factors, including the demographics of the neighborhood where a student lives. The policy considers the average household income in the neighborhood, the average education level of adults residing in the neighborhood, and the racial composition of the neighborhood as a whole.
'Berkeley Unified School District can be a model for other districts that want to employ voluntary desegregation plans without running afoul of Prop 209,' said Jory Steele, ACLU-NC Managing Attorney.
'School districts do not have to turn a blind eye to racial segregation. Today's ruling is a significant victory for California students and families who value diversity,' said Kendra Fox-Davis, an attorney at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
The school district's desegregation policy came under fire in 2006, when the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against the school district alleging that the desegregation plan violated Proposition 209. The suit alleged that the policy illegally used race to discriminate against and grant preferences to students when making student assignments.