Friday afternoon the federal Justice and Education departments issued a joint advisory on how "educational institutions can lawfully pursue voluntary policies to achieve diversity or avoid racial isolation," overturning a 2008 directive issued under the Bush administration. Read it here.
"The elementary and secondary guidance discusses school districts’ options in areas such as student assignment, student transfers, school siting, feeder patterns, and school zoning. Similarly, the postsecondary guidance provides examples of how colleges and universities can further diversity in contexts including admissions, pipeline programs, recruitment and outreach, and mentoring, tutoring, retention, and support programs," the letter says.
The news landed too late for official Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reaction, but national civil rights groups were quick to applaud the statement.
“This thoughtfully crafted guidance affirms, as a majority of Supreme Court justices have recognized, that K-12 schools, colleges, and universities have compelling interests in ensuring integration and alleviating racial and economic isolation in our schools," says a statement sent Friday evening by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Coalition on School Diversity, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and other groups. "Racial segregation and concentrated poverty are increasing in our nation’s schools, suggesting that we are backtracking on the successes of the civil rights movement. Many schools are more racially isolated today than they were in the 1970s. Today’s guidance recognizes the harms of resegregation and the benefits of diversity."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg's race-based assignment plan, which included drawing boundaries to increase diversity and offering magnet seats based partly on race, was overturned after a long legal battle. Since then, some have lamented the increasing isolation of African American, Hispanic and low-income students in CMS schools.
"Racial isolation remains far too common in America's classrooms today and it is increasing," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says in a press release. "This denies our children the experiences they need to succeed in a global economy, where employers, coworkers and customers will be increasingly diverse. It also breeds educational inequity, which is inconsistent with America's core values."