Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1
551 U.S. 701, 127 S. Ct. 2738 (2007)

  • Seattle had a policy where students could choose to go to any high school in the district. However, when too many students applied to the same school, a system of tiebreakers was used to determine who got to go.
    • One of the tiebreakers was a racial factor intended to maintain diversity.
      • That meant either whites or non-whites could be favored by the policy.
  • A group of parents sued, saying that the tiebreakers were a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
  • The US Supreme Court found that the tiebreakers were an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
    • The US Supreme Court found that since this policy involved a suspect classification, the level of review should be strict scrutiny.
      • Strict scrutiny is the level of review used when a fundamental constitutional right is infringed, or when the government action involves the use of a suspect classification such as race that may render it void under the Equal Protection Clause.
        • In order to pass a strict scrutiny review, a law must:
          • Be justified by a compelling governmental interest.
          • Be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.
          • Use least restrictive means to achieve that interest.
    • In this case, the Court found that there was no compelling government interest.
      • The Court noted that one compelling governmental interest would be to remedy past discrimination, but Seattle schools had never been segregated.
    • The Court noted even if you agreed that there was a compelling governmental interest in achieving a diverse student body, the law was too overbroad and not narrowly tailored enough to achieve its goals.
      • The policy did not use race as an assessment for broader diversity, instead, they use solely race as a factor for assigning students to different schools.