This from the School Law blog:
A federal appeals court has cast doubt on a Louisiana school district's student assignment plan that had a goal of maintaining racial balance and had allowed the district to be freed of court supervision for desegregation.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled 2-1 on Thursday that a lower court must give greater scrutiny to the student assignment plan of the Ascension Parish school system.
The 20,000-student district, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, was declared unitary, or legally desegregated, in 2004. When the school board in 2006 was evaluating plans to deal with overcrowding at one of the district's four high schools, it took data about the proportion of African-American students and at-risk students at feeder schools into account. The board cited a desire to maintain its unitary status.
A father of two black children in the district sued, alleging that the board's consideration of race and selection of an option that placed more at-risk students in a particular feeder zone violated the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause.
A federal district court held that the school system's plan was race neutral on its face and that evidence was lacking that the school board had a discriminatory motive in adopting it.
In its Nov. 3 decision in Lewis v. Ascension Parish School Board, the 5th Circuit panel called for more factual development in the lower court to determine whether the plan involves race classifications and thus must pass muster under the highest level of constitutional analysis, known as "strict scrutiny." ...