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The Role of the American Supreme Court in Shaping Education Policies


In the wake of the rights revolution, the role of American courts in shaping social policymaking has become paramount, but nowhere is this more blatant than in education. Indeed, although in the United States, education is a domain that normally falls within the competence of the states and in which decisions are mostly made at the local level, education policymaking is increasingly shaped by the federal judiciary. Thus, in the past decades, the Supreme Court has issued many decisions imposing both constitutional and statutory demands on schools, through litigation pertaining to school finance, special education, student rights, student discipline, the place of religion in schools, and racial inequality. Regarding racial equality policies, the legislative and executive branches seem to have abdicated their influence on desegregation policy to the courts since the 1950s. Whereas at first the law was used as a tool for social reform, after decades of decisions that contained ambiguity as to the contours of desegregation law, for a few years and under the impulse of its conservative majority, the Supreme Court has been pushing to roll back race-conscious policies. The backlash against such policies was displayed in its 2007 decision, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District N°1, which struck down plans designed by the Seattle and the Jefferson County (Ky.) school systems, making use of racial criteria in the assignment of students to their public schools. Affirmative action in college admissions is also at risk, with its fate to be decided by the Court: oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas were heard in October 2012 and the Supremes are expected to render decision during the summer.
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halshs-00957074 , version 1 (08-03-2014)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00957074 , version 1


Marion Pulce. The Role of the American Supreme Court in Shaping Education Policies: The Case of Race-Conscious Policies. Congrès mondial ISA/RCSL " Sociologie du Droit et Action Politique ", Sep 2013, Toulouse, France. ⟨halshs-00957074⟩
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