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U.S. Guidance Encourages K-12, College Racial Diversity

The Obama administration has issued guidance stressing the ways schools and colleges may legally take race into account in making student assignment and admissions decisions.

Education Week's Lesli Maxwell has the story here at the paper's main news blog, Politics K-12.

The guidance was issued Dec. 2 by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, and it replaces a less flexible interpretation of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in this area made by President George W. Bush's administration in August 2008.

The guidance includes a "dear colleague" letter signed by Russlyn Ali, the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights, and Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's civil rights division. There are separate guidance documents for K-12 schools (HTML or PDF) and for colleges and universities (HTML or PDF). Their advice is based on what administration officials believe is permitted under the Supreme Court's decisions in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, in 2007, and Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, in 2003.

The Obama administration has released the guidance just as the Supreme Court is weighing whether to take up a case involving the consideration of race in admissions at the University of Texas. In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a white student who was denied admission is challenging the university's return to using race in some admissions decisions after the high court's Grutter decision.

The Supreme Court has asked Texas for a response to the appeal, which is due Dec. 7. That means the court would likely decide sometime early in the new year whether to grant full review of the case.

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