<< Embracing diversity

By Victoria Wolfe, 17, North Hollywood HS Biological Sciences Zoo Magnet
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I decided to write this story about my magnet school after I heard about a court case that ruled in favor of non-integrated schools. One afternoon this summer, driving down winding Laurel Canyon Boulevard, my mom turned on NPR, national public radio, like she always does. Usually I stare out the window and turn my thoughts to the weird houses I see, but that day something caught my attention. A reporter was talking about Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation in public schools. A mother in Seattle had sued her school district, arguing that it shouldn’t consider students’ races when assigning them to a school, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

I had learned about Brown v. Board of Education in AP American history class. Why would someone want to reverse the case that took maybe the largest step toward racial equality in our country?

The woman, who is white, sued the Seattle school system so that her daughter could go to her neighborhood high school. In Seattle, if too many kids apply to a school, they use a “tie breaker,” the first being if a sibling is already attending that school and the second being race to keep the schools diverse. Too many white kids applied to the girl’s neighborhood school that year, and she didn’t get in. When the mother took the case to court, she won.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was quoted on NPR saying, “The last half century has witnessed great strides towards racial equality but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. … This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret.”

I started thinking about how this ruling could affect Los Angeles and my magnet school, which also considers race in admissions. Some magnets are hard to get into because they are small and their educational focus is popular. They’re like small private schools that the government pays for, so competition for spots can get pretty intense. What if someone sued to get their child into the magnet program they wanted?

To find out if the Supreme Court case would affect the Los Angeles Unified School District, I talked to Catherine Lhamon, the racial justice director of the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She assured me the case wouldn’t affect L.A.’s magnet program. She said the program is protected because it was created specifically for integration, while the Seattle program was not. She also said it was created as part of a court order, so it is legal.

But Lhamon told me LAUSD is currently fighting a lawsuit filed by people who want to stop the magnet program from considering race in admissions. Lhamon argues that the magnet program should be able to use race because it was created to desegregate schools and that there is no other way to achieve diversity without looking at each applicant’s race. “The single greatest achievement of the magnet program is its success in offering a world class education in a truly diverse setting,” Lhamon said. 
This reassured me, but I am still concerned because the woman in Seattle won her case. Magnets are important because they bring together people of different cultures so we can all learn from one another.