Students Doe Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court in Race-Based School Redistricting Case
After over half a century of litigation, the issue of race-based decision making has returned to the United States Supreme Court in the same context it was originally presented in Brown v. Board of Education. In Brown, African American
students sought relief from the Supreme Court because they were assigned to schools based upon their race. Students Doe, who are nine African American students living in Ardmore, Lower Merion Township, believe that Brown is
now under attack in the Lower Merion School District. Confident that Brown nevertheless remains both good and controlling law, the Students Doe have sought relief from the U.S. Supreme Court. Students Doe are filing a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court today (March 13, 2012), in order to appeal the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s decision in Student Doe 1, et. al. v. Lower Merion School District, (Docket No. 10-3824, December 14, 2011).
Students Doe originally sued the Lower Merion School District in federal court regarding the District’s decision to redistrict them away from their neighborhood school, instead busing them to a farther away school. Students Doe
maintain that the District targeted their neighborhood because of its rich racial diversity, and that by denying them the choice to attend their neighborhood school — a choice enjoyed by all of their surrounding neighbors — their 14th Amendment Right to Equal Protection was violated.
The case was originally heard in US District Court in April 2010, after which the Court found after a nine-day trial that there was overwhelming evidence that the Lower Merion School District used racial considerations to determine
which areas of the township were rezoned. Judge Michael Baylson nevertheless found that the need for racial consideration was constitutional in order to address
the “achievement gap,” despite Lower Merion’s repeated and explicit denial that their school redistricting had anything to do with addressing the achievement gap.
Students Doe then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After hearing oral arguments and examining the case record, in December, 2011 the Court upheld the decision of the District Court. The Appeals Court found that the District Court erred in its findings of fact that race was a consideration, determining that the decision to bus these students away from their neighborhood
school was not for racial balancing or achievement gap issues. One Judge dissented in part, confirming the lower court’s finding that race was indeed a factor.
Students Doe believe that the Appeals Court’s finding is incorrect. There is overwhelming evidence from the trial record that racial considerations loomed large in the decision making of the District’s administration, consultants, and
members of the sitting school board. The Students are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold their constitutional rights to equal treatment under the law. They are asking that their right to choose to attend their neighborhood high school be restored to them, as it is for other children in their surrounding neighborhoods.