Embracing Segregation: The Jurisprudence of Choice and Diversity in Race and Sex Separatism in Schools

In this article, Professor Levit studies the growing impulse toward resegregation in education. She traces the history of the judicial move away from court-ordered desegregation in the name of “choice” and a “diversity of options,” and she describes the educational system’s paral-lel increase in experimentation with single-sex schools and classes, also in the name of choice and diversity. In both movements, courts and com-mentators have been resistant to use empirical data when considering the constitutionality of single-sex and resegregated schools. Professor Levit contends that the primary arguments used to support separatism—choice and diversity—are flawed. The concepts of choice and diversity in the separatist educational movements are vastly different from the constitu-tionally endorsed concept of diversity in school admissions or affirmative action cases. The article returns to the message of Brown that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”—that official endorsement of segregation based on identity characteristics creates inequality. Em-bracing Segregation presents empirical evidence from the social sciences, as well as international experiences with gender and racial apartheid, that government-sponsored separatism tends to stigmatize citizens, even under conditions of relative equality. Finally, Professor Levit urges local schools and communities to experiment with less-segregative methods of education. She also encourages courts and commentators to consider empirical literature that studies the effects and cultural meanings of segregative educational practices.

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