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Highlights of significant Supreme Court cases on race and schools

Significant decisions by the Supreme Court on the racial makeup of schools:

1954 Brown v. Board of Education: Ruling unanimously that racially segregated public schools are unconstitutional, saying that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The landmark decision grew out of cases involving schools in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware.

1968 Green v. New Kent County, Va., finding the state’s “freedom of choice” plans ineffective at producing actual school desegregation. The Court says that school officials have an affirmative duty to eliminate segregation “root and branch.” Justices introduce the principle of “achieving unitary status,” or a racially nondiscriminatory system.

1971 Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, N.C., providing judges with broad power to fashion remedies to racial segregation if school districts fail to do so. Decision allows the busing of white and black students and redrawing school district lines to end segregation of schools.

1973 Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, ruling that schools have responsibility to desegregate, even in districts where schools had not been segregated by law. Limits remedies courts can fashion for school districts that did not have laws requiring racially segregated schools.

1974 Milliken v. Bradley, curtailing the power of judges to impose area-wide remedies, such as forced busing, on one school district to address racial segregation in another.

1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, striking down racial quotas but embracing for the first time the concept of affirmative action by saying admissions policies can take race into account.

1991 Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, making it easier for school districts to abandon forced busing of students once racial desegregation has been achieved, even if it will result in a return to racially segregated schools.

1992 Freeman v. Pitts, ruling that courts could end supervision of aspects of desegregation plans once segregated school districts achieve integration incrementally.

2000 Hopwood v. Texas, refusing to consider a lower court ruling that says developing a racially or ethnically diverse student body could not serve as a legitimate governmental reason for implementing a race-based admissions policy.

2003 Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, banning use of rigid formulas that award points based on race for admission to the University of Michigan’s undergraduate program and law school. But the court permits colleges to consider race as part of a “holistic review” of every application.

– Associated Press

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