SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO - A settlement agreement reached last night leaves the Capistrano Unified School District free to consider race when redrawing school attendance boundaries. The settlement affirms the importance of integration in public schools and the ability of school districts to take steps to avoid racially isolated schools.

A lawsuit filed in June 2005 had sought to overturn attendance boundaries for high schools adopted last year. The settlement leaves that plan intact.

'This settlement means Capistrano will not turn back the clock on school integration,' said Catherine Lhamon, ACLU/SC racial justice director. 'And it affirms that California law does not prevent school districts from considering race when drawing boundaries to reduce or avoid segregation.'

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler ruled in August that the school district's policy did not violate Proposition 209, the 1996 law about discrimination or preferences on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity. In her opinion, Judge Andler stated that 'the mere 'consideration' or 'taking into account' of racial/ethnic composition does not necessarily seem to 'discriminate' or grant 'preferences' based on race.'

Under the settlement, the new school district policy will not mention race, but the district will not have to change any of its practices.

'I am happy the district can continue to work toward schools that bring students of all races and backgrounds together,' said Capistrano parent Geri Ditto.

'Capistrano parents and students have experienced the benefits of racial and ethnic diversity,' said LDF assistant counsel Anurima Bhargava. 'The combined effect of the judge's ruling and the settlement means racial and ethnic integration can remain a core principle in the district.'