On Dec. 4, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding racial desegregation plans in the cases of Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, et al., and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, according to a press release. Civil rights groups Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and CAA | Chinese for Affirmative Action/Center for Asian American Advocacy asserted a compelling interest for the nation’s public schools to actively ensure equal access to quality education and a diverse learning environment.

In both cases, locally elected school boards in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. had voluntarily adopted measures to reverse racial segregation in their public schools, and considered race in their cities’ kindergarten to 12th-grade school assignments. Similarly, in San Francisco, where more than 50 percent of public school students are Asian American, School Board Commissioners would also like to propose a race-conscious student assignment plan that would include considerations of race in a narrowly tailored manner. CAA, which joined AALDEF in filing an amicus brief with the High Court, represents Chinese American parents and children who favor such an approach.

AALDEF Staff Attorney Khin Mai Aung said, “Asian American students in particular rely on the invaluable benefits of racially integrated public schools, which more accurately reflect their communities and greater U.S. society. If the Court were to bar school districts from desegregating their schools, the quality of education for Asian American children would be significantly harmed. AALDEF supports efforts by districts nationwide to consider race and other factors in order to fulfill the promise of educational equity embodied by the Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, more than 50 years ago.”

CAA Policy Advocate Christina Wong said, “In many of San Francisco’s schools, racial isolation has increased in the absence of race considerations in student assignment plans. Our current school assignment process has failed to provide our children with a racially integrated environment. CAA supports the voluntary use of race and ethnicity as a factor in the school assignment process to ensure that thousands of our city’s students receive a well-rounded education.”

Cindy Choy, a parent leader with the Visitacion Valley Parents Association, said: “As a parent and resident of one of San Francisco’s most diverse neighborhoods, I’ve witnessed firsthand how important it is for children to learn in a racially diverse environment. It would be easy to have my only daughter go to a school with a majority of Chinese students like herself but that would not allow her to learn and benefit from other groups of people. Although she is not at a highly demanded school, El Dorado [Elementary School]’s student population is racially diverse with a balanced number of Chinese Americans, Latinos and African Americans. The diversity has positively challenged her to be a strong and open-minded youth who appreciates and values other ethnic groups.”

The amicus brief that AALDEF, CAA, and other Asian American advocacy and direct service groups filed nationally is available at: www.aaldef.org/docs/amicus-K-12_deseg-2006.pdf.

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