The National School Boards Association (NSBA) lauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today for upholding a 2003 case that finds schools have a compelling interest in pursuing the educational benefits of diversity.
In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court voted to uphold its decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which permitted the use of race in university admissions if such policies were narrowly tailored. The Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously had ruled in favor of the university, for further review.
“NSBA is glad that the Supreme Court recognizes the value of diversity in the role of public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “While this is a case that specifically involves higher education admissions, elementary and secondary schools also need the ability to consider diversity to promote student achievement.”
NSBA, joined by the College Board and 11 other educational organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) admission policy promoting a diverse student body.
The case centers on Abigail Fisher, a student who was denied admission to UT’s 2008 freshman class. More than 80 percent of the university’s students are admitted through a formula that automatically accepts the top 10 percent of each Texas high schools’ graduating classes; however, the alternate formula that was challenged by Fisher allows the university to use special circumstances as criteria for admission, including the socioeconomic status of the applicant or her high school, the applicant’s family status and responsibilities, and race.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy reiterated the right of schools and universities to deference from the courts to educational decisions involving diversity. NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., noted that NSBA’s amicus brief was designed in part to appeal to Justice Kennedy in its call to uphold Grutter.
“In upholding Grutter, the Court preserves an important framework available to schools to put into place diversity policies that advance the educational benefits of students,” Negrón said. “We are pleased that this decision does not erode the existing legal landscape for the K-12 diversity environment.”
For further analysis, read NSBA’s Legal Clips.