Press Release

AALDEF and CAA Commend California Appellate Court’s Affirmation of Berkeley’s School Diversity Plan


New York, NY — The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) applaud the California Appellate Court’s decision to uphold the Berkeley Unified School District’s student diversity plan. On March 17, 2009 in [American Civil Rights Foundation v. Berkeley Unified School District, et al](, the California Appellate Court found Berkeley’s student assignment plan to be valid and legal. The plan seeks to increase diversity in Berkeley public schools by considering neighborhood demographics — such as income, education levels, and race/ethnicity. The plan was challenged under Proposition 209, which prohibits racial “preferences” or discrimination by California public entities. However, the Court ruled that the plan “aims to achieve social diversity by using neighborhood demographics when assigning students to schools” and does not “discriminate against, nor grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race,” and therefore “the particular policy challenged here…is not discriminatory.”

According to AALDEF Staff Attorney Khin Mai Aung, “Diverse public schools benefit all students — including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Public schools must foster an environment of understanding and respect for individuals from diverse backgrounds. Ensuring public schools that represent their communities is one important step toward this important goal.”

CAA Director of Community Initiatives Christina Wong agrees: “A diverse learning environment must be a part of any successful public school education. Such an environment helps students learn about the greater world and prepares them for our pluralistic society. The California Appellate Court’s ruling provides further support for achieving that goal in other school districts, including San Francisco Unified School District where they are currently redesigning their student assignment process.”

CAA and AALDEF have long promoted the value of diversity in public education and advanced the interest of Asian American and Pacific Islander students in attending racially integrated schools. In 2007, they collaborated with 14 Asian American community organizations nationwide to file an amicus brief in support of racially conscious school integration plans in Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, et al and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, which were both upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Both organizations praised the benefits of this week’s decision for Berkeley’s diverse student population.

For more information:
Khin Mai Aung
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 219