MALDEF and 15 Latino Organizations Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Local School District Voluntary Integration Authority

School District Petition would have set back desegregation efforts

October 12, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, October 11, 2006, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 16 national and local Latino organizations. At issue in the two cases, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education is the continued authority of local school districts to take voluntary action to reduce racial segregation and isolation in their schools.

“Latinos, now the nation’s largest minority group and exceeding 43 million people, have even higher representation among school age children. Our brief seeks to ensure that the Latino community’s stake in quality education is considered by the Court when the Seattle and Louisville cases are heard in December,” stated John Trasviña, MALDEF Interim President and General Counsel.

MALDEF and the other amici urge the Court to find that voluntary programs to combat segregation and promote racial diversity in K-12 schools are consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment and advance its goals of racial tolerance and equality.

“Over the last three decades, Latino children have become more isolated, and more concentrated in high-poverty public schools, than any other minority group. Seventy-seven percent of Latino children attend majority-minority schools and two out of every five attend intensely segregated schools,” stated Cynthia Valenzuela, MALDEF Litigation Director.

In addition to MALDEF, Latino organizations signing the brief, prepared by MALDEF and the New York office of the international law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, are: ASPIRA Association, Inc., Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR), Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU), Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy (META), National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPRW), The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), National Puerto Rican Coalition, Inc. (NPRC), Puerto Rican Bar Association (PRBA), Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), and the William C. Velasquez Institute.

“The 16 Latino organizations on the brief, which collectively have chapters and affiliates in virtually every part of the country, recognize that school segregation is a serious and growing problem for our communities,” said MALDEF attorney Shaheena Ahmad Simons. “School districts that are taking action to counteract racial isolation and provide educational opportunities to all children deserve to be commended, not taken to court.”

“Voluntary integration programs represent meaningful opportunities to bring the dream of equal and integrated education within closer reach of Latinos, a rising population in every sense. MALDEF’s brief seeks to ensure that the Court hears the Latino experience of de facto and de jure segregation, which has, until recently, been largely absent from the legal discourse on segregation in public schools,” added Fried Frank attorney Janice Mc Avoy.

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