(CN) – A California appeals court upheld the Berkeley Unified School District’s use of diversity categories for student assignments, refuting charges that the policy violates a 1996 constitutional amendment barring affirmative action programs.
The categories implemented by the Berkeley Unified School District base student assignments on different sectors’ average household income, education level, and racial composition.
The American Civil Rights Foundation, affiliated with anti-affirmative action activist Ward Connerly, challenged the school district’s policy in 2006. (Connerly backed California Proposition 209, a 1996 amendment to the state constitution. Passed by 54 percent of voters, the amendment banned affirmative action in public institutions.)
The foundation appealed to the California Court of Appeal after the federal court dismissed the action.
The appeals court ruled that the constitutional amendment was not intended to jettison all considerations of racial factors.
“The constitutional provision prohibits unequal treatment of particular persons and groups of persons; it does not prohibit the collection and consideration of community-wide demographic factors,” Justice Sepulveda wrote.
The foundation’s argument that consideration of race constitutes prejudice “distorts the language” of the provision, Sepulveda added.
State law grants schools broad latitude in creating their own solutions; such programs are “a matter for parents and educators to decide,” the judge wrote.