The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a statement clarifying that the “unfortunate situation” is because “of the student’s change in residency.”
“Even if the family's new St. Louis County school district participated in the transfer program, the student would still not be able to transfer. This situation stems from the 1980 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the St. Louis City and County schools were maintaining segregated systems. In 1983, the schools reached a Desegregation Settlement Agreement allowing African-American students to transfer into primarily white suburban school districts and for non-African American students to attend St. Louis schools. The goal was to try to balance the racial makeup of the city and county schools,” the statement read.The mother says: “The only thing I would really like out of this whole outcome are that the guidelines be revised for all children. I don’t think a factor of race should determine if a kid should be able to go to school or not, or the guidelines should have some leeway for how to deal with situations like this.... I don’t want any other families to go through what we’re going through.”
Legally, the question is whether the St. Louis City and County schools has eliminated the vestiges of de jure segregation. That's the compelling government interest that is seen as justifying the ongoing discrimination. After that, continued race discrimination, just for race balancing, violates the Equal Protection Clause, according to the 2006 Supreme Court case Parents Involved v. Seattle School District. That was a 5-4 case, and I think a new liberal majority would be eager to overrule or limit it.
As the mother says, a fix involving "some leeway" for "situations like this" could preserve the overall integration plan. The "situation like this" is a child who is already attending the school, who wants to continue, even as his family moves out of the district.
ADDED: Here's a NYT article by Emily Bazelon suggesting the perspective a new liberal majority would be likely to take on the school desegregation problem. Excerpt:
Justice Stephen Breyer sounded a sad and grim note of dissent [in Parents Involved]. Pointing out that the court was rejecting student-assignment plans that the districts had designed to stave off de facto resegregation, Breyer wrote that “to invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.” By invoking Brown v. Board of Education, the court’s landmark 1954 civil rights ruling, Breyer accused the majority of abandoning a touchstone in the country’s efforts to overcome racial division. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he concluded.
Breyer’s warning, along with even more dire predictions from civil rights groups, helped place the court’s ruling at the center of the liberal indictment of the Roberts court. In Louisville, too, the court’s verdict met with resentment. Last fall, I asked Pat Todd, the assignment director for the school district of Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville and its suburbs, whether any good could come of the ruling. She shook her head so hard that strands of blond hair loosened from her bun. “No,” she said with uncharacteristic exasperation, “we’re already doing what we should be.”