The Constitutional Future of Race-Neutral Efforts to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 that the racial classifications used by school districts in Seattle and Louisville to create diverse schools were unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy provided the deciding vote but also noted that school districts could pursue diversity and avoid racial isolation through race-neutral alternatives. He asserted that it was unlikely that race-neutral alternatives would be subject to strict scrutiny but articulated no rationale for this assertion. This Article argues that, after Parents Involved, school districts will focus on race-neutral efforts to create diverse schools because the decision leaves very little room for racial classifications that would survive strict scrutiny. This Article further contends that governments should be given wide latitude to adopt race-neutral efforts to avoid racial isolation and create diverse schools because these efforts will help school districts accomplish the goals of the Equal Protection Clause while avoiding many of the potential harms of racial classifications. In light of how Parents Involved will push districts to focus on race-neutral efforts to achieve diversity and avoid racial isolation, this Article confronts the key issues that will determine the future of efforts to provide diverse elementary and secondary schools.