Parents Involved v. Seattle Sch. Dist., No. 1, No. 01-35450.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtO'Scannlain
Citation285 F.3d 1236
PartiesPARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS, a Washington non-profit corporation, Plaintiff-counter-defendant-Appellant, v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT, NO. 1, a political subdivision of the State of Washington; Joseph Olchefske, in his official capacity as superintendent; Barbara Schaadlamphere, in her official capacity as President of the Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools; Donald Neilson, in his official capacity as Vice President of the Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools; Steven Brown; Jan Kumasaka; Michael Preston; Nancy Waldman, in their official capacities as members of the board of Directors, Defendants-counter-claimants-Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 01-35450.
Decision Date16 April 2002
285 F.3d 1236
PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS, a Washington non-profit corporation, Plaintiff-counter-defendant-Appellant,
v.
SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT, NO. 1, a political subdivision of the State of Washington; Joseph Olchefske, in his official capacity as superintendent; Barbara Schaadlamphere, in her official capacity as President of the Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools; Donald Neilson, in his official

Page 1237

capacity as Vice President of the Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools; Steven Brown; Jan Kumasaka; Michael Preston; Nancy Waldman, in their official capacities as members of the board of Directors, Defendants-counter-claimants-Appellees.
No. 01-35450.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted December 4, 2001.
Filed April 16, 2002.
Order Granting Injunction April 26, 2002.

Page 1238

Daniel B. Ritter (argued) & Harry J.F. Korrell (argued), Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, Seattle, WA, for the plaintiff-counter-defendant-appellant.

Michael Madden (argued) & Carol Sue Janes, Bennett, Bigelow & Leedom, P.S., Seattle, WA; Mark S. Green, Office of the General Counsel, Seattle School District No. 1, Seattle, WA, for the defendants-counter-claimants-appellees.

Sharon L. Browne, Pacific Legal Foundation, Sacramento, CA; Russell C. Brooks, Pacific Legal Foundation, Bellevue, WA, for amici curiae American Civil Rights Institute, American Civil Rights Union, Center for Equal Opportunity, and Pacific Legal Foundation.

Paul J. Lawrence, Preston, Gates & Ellis LLP, Seattle, WA, for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington; Barbara J. Rothstein, Chief District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-00-01205-BJR.

Page 1239

Before: REAVLEY*, O'SCANNLAIN, and GRABER, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge O'SCANNLAIN; Concurrence by Judge GRABER.

O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge.


We are asked to decide the legality of the use of race in determining which students will be admitted to oversubscribed high schools in Seattle, Washington.

I

Seattle, Washington is a vibrant and racially diverse metropolis in the Pacific Northwest. Based on the parties' submissions, it appears that approximately 70% of the residents of Seattle, Washington are white, while approximately 30% are nonwhite. This racial diversity is reflected in Seattle's public schools, where the percentages are more evenly balanced: the students are approximately 40% white and 60% non-white.

The racial distribution of the community is not, however, homogeneous. It appears that more white students live in the northern part of Seattle, and in areas close to the waterfront in all parts of the city, than in the southern part of the city. Specifically, approximately 66% of white students live north of downtown. In contrast, approximately 77% of non-white students live south of downtown—including 84% of all African-American students, 74% of all Asian students, and 65% of all Hispanic students.

A

Seattle School District Number 1 (the "School District"), which is charged with educating the children of this metropolis, operates ten public high schools: Ballard, Chief Sealth, Cleveland, Franklin, Garfield, Ingraham, Nathan Hale, Rainier Beach, Roosevelt, and West Seattle. Four of these High schools (Ballard, Ingraham, Nathan Hale, and Roosevelt) are located north of downtown Seattle; of the remaining six, five (Chief Sealth, Cleveland, Franklin, Garfield, and Rainier Beach) are located south of downtown, and one (West Seattle) is located directly west of downtown.

Seattle's public high schools vary widely in quality, as measured by such factors as standardized test scores, numbers of college preparatory and Advanced Placement (AP) courses offered, percentage of students taking AP courses and Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs), percentage of graduates who attend college, Seattle Times college-preparedness rankings, University of Washington rankings, and disciplinary statistics. Moreover, some of the schools offer programs or opportunities not offered in other schools.1

The School District has never been segregated by law ("de jure" segregated). However, due to Seattle's racial diversity and its racially imbalanced housing patterns, if Seattle's children were simply assigned to the high schools nearest their homes, the high schools would become segregated in fact ("de facto" segregated). As part of its continuing effort to prevent de facto segregation and to promote racial diversity in its high schools, instead of

Page 1240

assigning students to the high schools nearest their homes, the School District has adopted an open choice assignment plan, pursuant to which each student may choose to attend any of the ten high schools in the city, so long is there is room available in that school.

In its current incarnation, the School District's open choice plan provides for a multi-step assignment process. Under the plan, each student is first asked to list the high schools he would like to attend, in order of preference. If a student is not admitted to his first-choice school because it is full, the School District attempts to assign him to his second-choice school, and so on. If a student is not admitted to any of his chosen schools, he receives a mandatory assignment to a school with available space.

Not surprisingly, under this system, a significant problem arises when a school becomes "oversubscribed" — i.e., more students want to attend that school than there are spaces. For the academic year 2000-01, five of the School District's high schools were oversubscribed, and five were undersubscribed.2 The magnitude of oversubscription underscores its problematic nature: for example, in the academic year 2000-01, approximately 82% of students selected one of the oversubscribed high schools as their first choice, while only about 18% picked one of the undersubscribed high schools as their first choice.

To solve the problem of oversubscription, the School District's assignment plan uses a series of four "tiebreakers" to determine which students will be admitted to each oversubscribed school.

1

The first tiebreaker gives preference to students with siblings already attending the school requested. This tiebreaker accounts for somewhere between 15% and 20% of high school assignments.

2

If after applying the first tiebreaker a school is still oversubscribed, the School District next proceeds to a second tiebreaker, which is based entirely on race. For purposes of the racial tiebreaker, students are deemed to be of the race specified in their registration materials, which ask parents to specify the student's race using codes provided on a form. Because registration must be completed in person by a parent, if a parent declines to specify a racial category, the School District assigns the student a category based on a visual inspection of the parent (and the student, if present) at registration. It is this racial tiebreaker that spawned this lawsuit.

The School District uses the racial tiebreaker in an attempt to "balance" the racial makeup of the various Seattle public high schools. Accordingly, if an oversubscribed school's population deviates from the overall racial makeup of Seattle's students (40% white and 60% non-white) by more than a set number of percentage points, then the School District designates the school "integration positive."3 The racial

Page 1241

tiebreaker is then applied when determining assignments to integration positive schools such that students whose race (i.e., white or non-white) will move the school closer to that ratio are given admission preference.4 As presently in force this tiebreaker has a "thermostat"; the School District ceases to use the racial tiebreaker for the year at any school once use of the tiebreaker has brought the school into racial balance. All told, the racial tiebreaker determines about 10% of high school assignments.

3

Once all students of the preferred racial category are admitted to an oversubscribed high school, any remaining seats are allocated using a third tiebreaker: distance. Applicants are admitted in order of the distance they live from the school, with those who live closest to the school admitted first.

4

A fourth tiebreaker, a lottery, is rarely used in high school assignments because distances are calculated to one hundredth of a mile for purposes of the third tiebreaker.

B

Parents Involved in Community Schools (the "Parents") describe themselves as "a nonprofit corporation formed by parents whose children have been or may be denied admission to the high schools of their choosing solely because of race." The Parents put forward four members as "examples" of the effects of the racial tiebreaker.

First, the Parents point to members Jill Kurfurst and Winnie Bachwitz. Each has a child who entered high school in the 2000-01 school year and plans to attend college. After reviewing test statistics, course offerings, extracurricular programs, college rankings, disciplinary statistics, and proximity, the Kurfurst and Bachwitz children applied for admission to Ballard, Roosevelt, and Nathan Hale High Schools. They chose Ballard first, partly because of its unique Biotech Academy. However, both children, while accepted into the program, were denied admission to Ballard because of their race and consequently were not allowed to enroll. They were also denied admission to Nathan Hale because of their race. Both were assigned to Ingraham High School.

When assignments were announced for the 2000-01 school year, the School District apparently did not run school buses to Ingraham from the neighborhoods where Kurfurst and Bachwitz lived. Consequently, attendance at Ingraham would have required the children to take three Metro buses to get to school, resulting in a round-trip commute of over four hours. Both students hoped to participate in after-school activities; that would have required each...

To continue reading

Request your trial
18 practice notes
  • Parents Involved v. Seattle School Dist. 1, No. 01-35450.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 16, 2002
    ...high schools. See Parents Involved in Cmty. Schs. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 137 F.Supp.2d 1224 (2001) [Parents Involved I], rev'd, 285 F.3d 1236 (9th Cir.2002) [Parents Involved II], withdrawn, 294 F.3d 1084 (9th Cir.2002), certifying Page 954 294 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2002) [Parents Invol......
  • Parents Involved in Community v. Seattle School, No. 01-35450.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 20, 2005
    ...state law and discussing federal law only as an aid to construing state law. Parents Involved in Cmty. Schs. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 285 F.3d 1236 (9th Cir.2002) ("Parents II"). The panel subsequently withdrew its opinion and certified the state law question to the Washington Supreme C......
  • PICS v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, No. 72712-1.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • June 26, 2003
    ...law. See Parents Involved in Cmty. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 137 F.Supp.2d 1224, 1240 (W.D.Wash.2001) (PICS I), overturned by 285 F.3d 1236 (9th Cir.2002) (PICS II), opinion withdrawn by 294 F.3d 1084 (9th Cir. 2002). Judge Rothstein reasoned that while RCW 49.60.400 was susceptible......
  • In re Washington Mutual, Inc., No. 08–12229 (MFW).
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Delaware
    • September 13, 2011
    ...the federal judgment rate promotes two important bankruptcy goals: “fairness among creditors and administrative efficiency.” Cardelucci, 285 F.3d at 1236. See also Best, 365 B.R. at 727 (federal judgment rate provides “an efficient and inexpensive means of calculating the amount of interest......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Parents Involved v. Seattle School Dist. 1, No. 01-35450.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 16, 2002
    ...high schools. See Parents Involved in Cmty. Schs. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 137 F.Supp.2d 1224 (2001) [Parents Involved I], rev'd, 285 F.3d 1236 (9th Cir.2002) [Parents Involved II], withdrawn, 294 F.3d 1084 (9th Cir.2002), certifying Page 954 294 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2002) [Parents Invol......
  • Parents Involved in Community v. Seattle School, No. 01-35450.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 20, 2005
    ...state law and discussing federal law only as an aid to construing state law. Parents Involved in Cmty. Schs. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 285 F.3d 1236 (9th Cir.2002) ("Parents II"). The panel subsequently withdrew its opinion and certified the state law question to the Washington Supreme C......
  • PICS v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, No. 72712-1.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • June 26, 2003
    ...law. See Parents Involved in Cmty. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 137 F.Supp.2d 1224, 1240 (W.D.Wash.2001) (PICS I), overturned by 285 F.3d 1236 (9th Cir.2002) (PICS II), opinion withdrawn by 294 F.3d 1084 (9th Cir. 2002). Judge Rothstein reasoned that while RCW 49.60.400 was susceptible......
  • In re Washington Mutual, Inc., No. 08–12229 (MFW).
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Delaware
    • September 13, 2011
    ...the federal judgment rate promotes two important bankruptcy goals: “fairness among creditors and administrative efficiency.” Cardelucci, 285 F.3d at 1236. See also Best, 365 B.R. at 727 (federal judgment rate provides “an efficient and inexpensive means of calculating the amount of interest......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 firm's commentaries

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT