Press Release: NCSD Decries Secretary DeVos and Attorney General Sessions for Removal of School Integration Guidance


Washington, DC – Today, in another unprovoked attack on local voluntary school integration efforts, Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew an important tool meant to help districts better understand what they can and cannot do in their efforts to promote racial diversity in elementary and secondary public schools.

The withdrawn document, titled “Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools,” was originally issued in 2011 by Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. to help educators make sense of and comply with the legal framework set out by the Supreme Court in the 2007 school integration case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (“PICS”).

In PICS, the Court placed some limits on the individual use of race in K-12 student assignment. But, the decision also recognized school diversity to be a compelling government interest. In his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy outlined ways that local districts might achieve diversity that did not involve selecting individual students on the basis of their race.

The ED/DOJ guidance is being revoked at a time when states and local governments are beginning to exercise some of the flexibility afforded to them by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and many districts have recognized the academic and social benefits of racial and economic diversity for their students.

NCSD urges national leadership to support courageous and visionary educators and policymakers willing to tackle systemic issues, rather than putting more barriers in their way.

Quotes from NCSD Members:

“This is an extraordinarily cynical move by Secretary DeVos. She knows that taking down the guidance doesn’t change the law in any way, but it is likely to confuse school districts that are trying to comply with the law.”

–Gina Chirichigno
Director, National Coalition on School Diversity

“Today’s decision to rescind the thoughtful 2001 guidelines explaining accepted law designed to strengthen education for all students through diverse educational institutions signals an apparent attempt to reverse the progress achieved over the more than half century since Brown v. Bd. of Education was decided. Fortunately, that law is determined by the Supreme Court and not an administration which seems bent on promoting division and a reversal of progress.”

–Dennis Parker
Director, ACLU Racial Justice Project
(Updated 7/3 at 9:10PM)

“Today’s pronouncement is a troubling departure from Supreme Court precedent. Although not surprisingly, this Administration is continuing down the path of racial recidivism that it has signaled in every way it can. Those who have fought for equal opportunity will not give up that fight.”

–Ted Shaw
Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law, UNC Law School
Director, UNC Center for Civil Rights

“Since five members of the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that voluntary school integration was an important, even a ‘compelling’ government goal, the evidence has become even stronger that school integration benefits all children–not just in academic achievement and long term outcomes, but in our children’s ability to thrive in a diverse, multicultural society. That is why so many school districts and even some states are working to promote racial and economic diversity in their public schools.”

–Philip Tegeler
Executive Director, Poverty & Race Research Action Council

“This Administration’s blatant hostility to students of color and people of color is palpable. The evidence is clear that diversity benefits ALL students both academically and beyond. One of the Department of Education’s first acts was to eliminate a small grant program to support locally developed diverse and integrated school programs, despite numerous applicants who had already applied for the grant. Now, it has cemented its place in history as one of the most regressive Administrations, more interested in stalling progress than uplifting and celebrating the benefits of America’s rich racial and cultural diversity. America’s greatness is a direct result of its diversity and this Administration’s actions speak more to its own denial of the facts, fear of progress and willingness to undermine the success of future generations of Americans to maintain the power of the few.”

–Tanya Clay House
CEO, ClayHouse Consulting Inc.
Former Deputy Asst. Secretary, P-12, U.S. Department of Education

“I regret this administration’s action to turn back the clock of OCR and DOJ on the racial guidance policy. However, like Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley, we will continue to pursue the goal of integration and reduction of racial isolation in grade schools and in colleges in the 21st century.”

–John Brittain
Civil Rights Attorney

“Across the South, districts have used the guidance to build bridges among racially and economically diverse communities and universities have become more accessible and inclusive. Rescinding the guidance sends the wrong message to the students and families in these communities that are taking bold action to counter segregated schooling.”

–David Hinojosa
IDRA National Director of Policy

“U.S. schools today are extremely segregated by both race and poverty and they offer the weakest educational opportunities to African American and Latino students threatening the future of those students..  Since there is powerful evidence of both academic and social benefits of integrated education thoughtful educators are and should be thinking about the use of choice programs and other strategies to increase lasting integration.  This move is a strong symbolic rejection of those good efforts, meant to intimidate,  but without any legal force. Educators and local leaders should dismiss it as another example of a divisive administration and take steps that are fully legal under the Parents Involved Supreme Court decision.”

–Gary Orfield
Research Professor, UCLA Graduate School of Education
Co-Director, The Civil Rights Project at UCLA


Former Secretaries of Education Arne Duncan and John B. King, Jr. Release Statements Condemning Removal of School Integration Guidance

“In my career, I’ve had a very simple test in deciding whether to pursue a policy or program.  “Will it help kids?”  The guidance on the use of race that we issued with the Department of Justice in 2011 absolutely met that test. Reams of research shows that educating students in diverse environments helps students of all races, both in the classroom and in the years that follow.  In withdrawing this guidance, the Trump Administration is taking another step backward for kids.  The withdrawal of this guidance will leave school districts and universities seeking to pursue diversity without a roadmap of how this can be done lawfully and effectively. It will create more uncertainty in the field, with the result being that kids will suffer.  Our nation’s children deserve better.”

–Arne Duncan
Former Secretary of Education

“I am deeply disappointed in the Trump administration’s rollback of joint guidance by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education that promotes diversity and integration on campuses and in schools across the nation, as is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and rulings from multiple U.S. Supreme Court cases.

“Diversity matters. More than 60 years later, our nation still has not fulfilled the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. Research shows the benefits of diversity for all students; and innovative practices in schools, on campuses, and in communities to advance diversity can help protect the future prosperity of our nation and the long-term health of our economy. With each passing day, our country grows more diverse, and despite deeply misguided calls for building walls, the simple truth is we cannot build walls high enough to separate one child’s destiny from that of another.

“This administration’s continued and cruel attacks on civil rights and justice represent a horrific attempt to unravel the very fabric of our democracy. With the search underway for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s replacement on the Supreme Court, the need could not be more urgent for advocates to be vigilant and fight relentlessly for equity and justice, especially for our nation’s most underserved students and families.”

–John B. King, Jr.
Former Secretary of Education
CEO of Education Trust
(Statement issued by the Education Trust)


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