- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

A state appeals court is reviewing a public school district policy in California that restricts white students from transferring from schools with high numbers of minorities. Some parents argue the policy is discriminatory and violates their right to choose their children's school.
The "Racial Balancing" policy, enforced by the Huntington Beach Union High School District, allows students to transfer to any school in the district as long as there is room and as long as the majority of students at the school from which they are transferring are white.
If the white population drops to a level where the minority population becomes a majority, white students are denied transfers, but minority students are still allowed to switch schools.
As a result, parents claim white students who want to transfer to another school so they could take more academically challenging classes, enroll in elective courses or participate in after-school activities are held back, essentially to fulfill a "quota."
In one case, a student who wanted to transfer to another school to help his disabled sibling was denied a request to switch schools because of the policy.
Parents also contend that the policy, which went into effect in the late 1990s, violates Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot initiative that banned consideration of race and ethnicity in public education or government jobs. Fifty-four percent of California residents voted for the initiative.
A Huntington Beach resident, Donald Bruce Crawford, sued the school district on behalf of the parents whose children attend the district's six high schools.
"This is the type of race-base program that voters here intended to eliminate," said Sharon Browne, an attorney with the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing Mr. Crawford's case. "There's no question about that, because the voters had their say when they voted for [the proposition]."
Mr. Crawford, whose children graduated from the school district several years ago, said he decided to sue the school district because he thinks the policy goes against the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. the Board of Education, which called for racial integration in public schools.
"That case intended to open doors to education," Mr. Crawford said. "This school district is using the same argument to close the doors. This has got political correctness written all over it. They try to wrap it as political rhetoric, but you can see right through the veil."
However, school district officials, who adopted the policy in the mid-1990s, argue that the policy protects against segregation.
Before the case went to court, the school district's assistant superintendent, John Myers, told the Orange County Register that the school board was trying to do the right thing when writing the policy.
"You want choice," Mr. Myers said. "But you don't want to have schools become segregated."
The school district's attorney, David Larsen, defended the policy. "It is appropriate and required by the state constitution," which bars segregated schools, Mr. Larsen said.
Mr. Crawford's case has already gone before an Orange County judge, who in 2000 ruled for the school district, agreeing that unrestricted transfers would cause segregation at heavily minority schools.
The case has now made its way to California's 4th District Court of Appeals in Santa Ana, where three justices are expected to decide within the next 90 days whether to overturn the county judge's decision and find the policy unconstitutional.
The justices heard oral arguments in the case last week.

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