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Charles Hamilton Houston Institute Hosts Panel On Racial Integration In Public Schools

Posted by DallasBlackBlog on Sunday, September 16, 2007

September 7, 2007

king

Lawyers George Hayes,
Thurgood Marshall,
and James M. Nabrit
join hands outside
the U.S. Supreme Court
to celebrate Brown vs. Education.

The Supreme Court’s recent rulings overturning desegregation plans by school districts in Seattle and Louisville were the focus of a special panel discussion sponsored by Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice on September 6.

In June, a sharply divided Court restricted the ability of public school districts to use race to determine which schools students can attend, a decision that could severely limit integration programs nationwide. The justices split along ideological grounds, with five justices ruling that the school placement schemes under review violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

Like most of the analysis since the decision, the panel discussion focused on the concurring opinion filed by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy ’61, who cast the deciding vote with the court’s conservatives to strike down the school plans but specifically declined to follow key parts of the plurality opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. ’79.

Kennedy wrote: “Parts of the opinion by the Chief Justice imply an all-too-unyielding insistence that race cannot be a factor in instances when, in my view, it may be taken into account. The plurality opinion is too dismissive of the legitimate interest government has in ensuring all people have equal opportunity regardless of their race.

Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion has become a source of hope for those who support racial integration efforts, said panelist Nadine Cohen, staff counsel on the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of the Boston Bar Association. “The idea that we can be color-blind in our education policies really ignores the reality of life and race in America today,” she said. “I think Justice Kennedy has left a window open for us, and we need to climb through that window, but not by contorting desegregation programs we know have worked.”

Another panelist, Anurima Bhargava, director of the education group in the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Kennedy’s opinion served as a “stop-gap” against the majority opinion, which would have otherwise gone a lot further towards outlawing desegregation efforts in public schools.

Cynthia Valenzuela, director of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, admitted that the Court’s decision has already made it more difficult for public school districts in Arizona and California to implement desegregation policies. Latinos in particular have already faced more public school segregation since the ruling, she said.

Other panelists included: Dennis Parker from the American Civil Liberties Union, Khin Mai Aung from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and john a. powell from the Kirwan Institute for Race and Ethnicity.

The panel event also commemorated Charles Hamilton Houston’s 112th Birthday. Professor Charles Ogletree, the Houston Institute’s executive director, and Charles Hamilton Houston, Jr. were on hand to unveil a portrait of the Institute’s namesake. It will hang at Harvard Law School.

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Posted in African American, African American Lawyers, American Civil Liberties Union, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Black, Black Lawyers, Brown v. Board of Education, Charles Hamilton Houston, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Civil Rights, Desegregation, Education, Harvard Law School, Kirwan Institute for Race and Ethnicity, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Professor Charles Ogletree, Public Education, Race, Racism, Thurgood Marshall, Urban Education | Leave a Comment »

Harvard’s Black Law Student Association Receives The National Johnny Cochran Award for Social Consciousness

Posted by DallasBlackBlog on Sunday, September 16, 2007

September 14, 2007

Harvard BLSA

Members of the Harvard BLSA
accept the national award

Last spring Harvard Law School’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) was selected by a committee of individuals from around the country to receive the national Johnny Cochran Chapter Award for Social Consciousness.

“Given all that we did last year it was a wonderful acknowledgement,” said Stacey Moore ’08, historian of Harvard’s BLSA chapter last year. “This award was very exciting and we were humbled and proud.”

The Johnny Cochran award is given annually at the district and national level. Harvard received the award at both levels last spring for the chapter’s participation in community service programs and for increasing awareness about issues affecting the black community.

With nearly 150 members, the Harvard BLSA is the largest Black Law Students chapter in the country. Each year, the Harvard group organizes events on campus with the goal of assisting members in the development of their legal careers. The National Black Law Students Association is comprised of over 200 student chapters around the country.

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Posted in African American, African American Lawyers, Black, Black Law Students Association, Black Lawyers, BLSA, Harvard BLSA, Harvard Law School, Johnny Cochran Award, Legal, Race | Leave a Comment »

National Black Law Students Reject Supreme Court School Case Rationale on Race Plans

Posted by DallasBlackBlog on Thursday, August 23, 2007

June 30, 2007

For Immediate Release:

(WASHINGTON, DC June 28, 2007) — In an unfortunate 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the race conscious integration plans of Seattle and Louisville public schools, deeming them unconstitutional. While studies have consistently shown the benefits of racially diverse classrooms in all stages of education, the Supreme Court’s ruling seems counterintuitive considering this nation’s history as well as the growing racial and ethnic composition of our country.

The Supreme Court found the race conscious plans of Seattle and Louisville unconstitutional because they were not narrowly tailored to take race into account to the minimum extent necessary. In both of these school districts, race was used as a tiebreaker in determining which school a student will attend in order to achieve a diverse student population. As we stand here in front of the Supreme Court today, this case reflects a period where the Supreme Court is intellectually dishonest concerning the problems of race in America.

This decision’s message is similar to Plessy v. Ferguson; embarrassing our nation and tacitly ignoring issues of racial injustice in facilities. It is imperative for our generation to mobilize on these issues as we have the unique challenge to discern a less overt and elusive form of Jim Crow’s legacy, said Eddie L. Koen Jr., National Chair of the National Black Law Students Association. With the ongoing attempts by the American Bar Association to modify accreditation evaluations for law schools, in addition to the composition of the Court, we are in danger of witnessing a disparate impact for the enrollment of not only black law students, but K-12 schools all over the country.

The two school districts, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, have failed to provide the necessary support for the proposition that there is no other way than individual racial classifications to avoid racial isolation in their school districts.” Moreover, the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race . . . The reasoning applied by the Chief Justice that ignoring race will rectify the issues of unequal access to educational institutions was a unjustifiable deviance from both statistical data on school integration and Supreme Court jurisprudence going back to Brown v. Board of Education. The court ignores issues of de facto segregation and assumes color-blind policies will act as an invisible hand to magically fix the ills of our nation’s history.

Race conscious integration plans have been essential in preventing racial isolation in school districts and providing equal access to educational institutions. Justice Breyer noted in his dissenting opinion that between 1968 and 1980, the number of black children attending a school where minority children constituted more than half the children fell from 77% to 63% (81% to 57% in the south). However, this positive trend has slowly reversed since 2000. Since 2000 the figure has risen from 63% back to 77% (57% to 69% in the south). In light of these figures, the Supreme Court insists on a ruling that will only intensify the problems of racial isolation and equal access to educational institutions.

The Supreme Court’s willingness to find the Seattle and Louisville race conscious integration plans unconstitutional conflicts with decades of equal protection jurisprudence dating back to Brown v. Board of Education. In Brown, the court began remedying minorities lack of an equal opportunity to pursue an education. The decision made by the court to further restrict race conscious integration plans not only inhibits the ability of school districts to provide minorities access to equal educational institutions, it exacerbates the problems of segregation that have unjustifiably inhibited the progression of minorities in American society.

We have witnessed times in the past where the high court has rendered a bad decision. We witnessed Plessy v. Ferguson, where the court’s separate but equal doctrine provided an impetus to further segregation laws. Today, we whole-heartedly agree with Justice Breyer’s dissent, which states in part that, this is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret.

The National Black Law Students Association recognizes the severity of this case and will work to determine the full ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision. The National Black Law Student Association will continue to serve as advocates for the right of minorities to have equal access to education.

Founded in 1968, the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) is a nationwide organization formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of black law students and effectuates change in the legal community. As the largest student run organization in the country with over 6,000 members, NBLSA includes chapters or affiliates in six different countries including The Bahamas, Nigeria, and South Africa. NBLSA encourages the development of talented, social conscious lawyers of tomorrow.

For more information, Contact Levi Christian Pearson at communications@nblsa.org

Posted in African American, African American Education, African American Lawyers, Announcements, Black, Black Education, Black Lawyers, Brown v. Board of Education, Civil Rights, Education, Education Reform, Law, Public Education, Race, Supreme Court, Urban Education | Leave a Comment »

 
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