On Friday, the United States Department of Education and the Department of Justice issued a new policy guidance on how schools and colleges can take proactive measures to increase diversity and avoid racial isolation in adherence to the Supreme Court decisions Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), Gratz v. Bollinger (2003), and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007). The guidance emphasizes the current administration’s commitment to diversity in education in light of the increasing racial segregation and concentrated poverty in public schools, many of which are more racially isolated today than they were in the 1970s.
“All Asian Americans cannot achieve educational and employment equality in the long run without a clear roadmap for schools and colleges that want to voluntarily increase diversity,” said Khin Mai Aung, Director of the Educational Equity Program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). “We welcome the new guidance, which recognizes the Supreme Court’s ruling that promoting meaningful diversity in education is a compelling governmental interest.”
The new guidance, which rescinds the Bush administration’s 2008 policy, contains two parts — one for K-12 school districts and the other for higher education institutions. The elementary and secondary guidance sets out potential strategies for increasing diversity including locating schools, drawing attendance boundaries, and governing student transfers. The higher education guidance provides examples of how colleges and universities can further diversity in admissions, recruitment and outreach, and support.
“AALDEF has documented the disadvantages and discrimination faced by segments of the Asian American population for years,” said Aung. “Asian American students face higher levels of bias-based harassment than any other racial group. Immigrant students must often contend with insufficient language education programs. Greater diversity in schools and equal education access will help mitigate such problems at the source.”
In the higher education context, Aung noted that there is a persistent myth that Asian Americans have already achieved equal access to educational opportunities and thus have no need for affirmative action. In reality, among the 24 distinct Asian American Pacific Islander ethnic groups, the range of educational attainment and socioeconomic status is significant. Based on the 2000 Census, 19.6% of white Americans achieved less than a high school education, compared to 59.6% of Hmong Americans, 53.3% of Cambodian Americans, 49.6% of Laotian Americans, and 38.1% of Vietnamese Americans.
“We stand behind the Department of Education and the Department of Justice in issuing this guidance, and will actively work with schools and educators to implement such policies.” said Aung.
The guidance documents are available at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201111.html
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