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Race and Public Schools

June 29, 2007

It was 1954 in Brown v. the Board of Education, when the Supreme Court ruled classifying students by race was against the constitution.

"So the plurality said that using that same logic, any consideration of race by a school system is unconstitutional, it doesn't matter if the school system has a benign motive such as trying to achieve diversity in its school systems," said Dr. Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a UVA Law professor.

Brown-Nagin says it's important to understand that not everyone agrees with the court's ruling.

She also says it's now up to the school boards to decide how to apply this ruling to their system.

"It might be a better, safer idea to consider factors that are not race based," said Brown-Nagin, "Which might help to diversify school systems."

Albemarle County Public Schools say that when they look at attendance boundary changes, race is something they've always looked at; but has never been a deciding factor.

"We understand that children benefit from being in schools that mirror society. All of our decisions are very clearly about what's best for student success and student learning, and so that's always going to be what Dr. (Pam) Moran, her staff and this school board put at the forefront," said Sue Bell-Friedman, the ACPS Board Chair.

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