When it comes to due process on campus, Republicans in Congress, who campaigned on vows to rein in the Obama administration’s abuses of executive power, have largely acquiesced in its bureaucratic imposition of quasi-judicial tyranny. For more than four years, the White House and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have used an implausible reinterpretation of a 1972 civil-rights law to impose mandates unimagined by the law’s sponsors. It has forced almost all of the nation’s universities and colleges to disregard due process in disciplinary proceedings when they involve allegations of sexual assault. Enforced by officials far outside […]
Over the past year The New York Times has published thousands of words about the rape allegation against Heisman Trophy-winning Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston, all pointing to a single conclusion: He is guilty, and the state of Florida and his school have excused his crime because of his football prowess. But there is a large body of evidence that The Times has kept from its readers that would lead a discerning reader to another conclusion: that Winston has been cleared by three separate investigations because the evidence […]
The June 28 Supreme Court decision sharply curbing the ability of school districts to pursue racial integration illustrates the pitfalls of both the conservative and the liberal blocs’ approaches to the problem of race. But finding a principled middle ground is not easy.
The conservatives. Chief Justice John Roberts’s plurality opinion for the four-man conservative bloc oversimplified the Court’s precedents in order to veer close to a "colorblind Constitution" absolutism that has never been the law. Roberts declared broadly that the integration programs before the Court — in Seattle and metropolitan Louisville, Ky. — "are directed only to racial balance, pure and simple, an objective this Court has repeatedly condemned as illegitimate." But no Supreme Court majority has ever condemned the pursuit of racial balance in public schools as illegitimate.
To the contrary, countless judicial decrees mandated race-based student assignments as a remedy for official segregation during the decades after Brown v. Board of Education. More to the point here, the justices said repeatedly during that era that communities with no such history of official segregation could pursue integration if they chose. Many lower courts said the same. This reflected a widespread view that racial isolation of minority students — especially poor blacks — hurts their educations and that proximity to children of other races can benefit all students by fostering interracial understanding and empathy.
Roberts unpersuasively brushed aside this body of precedent as though it had been silently overruled by the general language of more-recent decisions in the very different context of racial preferences in awarding government contracts and seats in selective universities.
Like religious fundamentalists seeking to stamp out the teaching of evolution, feminists stomped Harvard University President Lawrence Summers for mentioning at a January 14 academic conference the entirely reasonable theory that innate male-female differences might possibly help explain why so many mathematics, engineering, and hard-science faculties remain so heavily male.
Outside Anacostia Senior High School, three miles southeast of the Capitol, a football player was killed on October 30 by a stray bullet meant for someone else. Not far away, at Ballou Senior High, a gang fight involving 15 or 20 students broke out in the cafeteria on November 10. School officials "have no control," one Ballou mother complained to The Washington Post.
Eulanda Johnson sees her daughter’s move from Cleveland’s dismal public school system to St. Mary’s Elementary as a kind of deliverance. At public school, she says, 9-year-old Ebony learned little amid the disruptive kids, and administrators "only want your kid in that seat to get the money" from the state. At St. Mary’s, "I felt welcome when I walked in the door, and when I walk through a door and feel the warmth and the care, I know that that’s the school for my child." Before long, with the help of a state voucher program that pays most of her tuition, Ebony "wanted to start learning."
It made news when hecklers booed Sacramento Bee publisher Janis Besler Heaphy so loudly and long-for suggesting that the government had gone too far in curbing civil liberties since September 11-that she could not finish her December 15 commencement speech at California State University (Sacramento). "Many interpret it as a troubling example of rising intolerance for public discourse that questions the nation’s response to the September 11 terror attacks," reported the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times and other major newspapers weighed in with similar articles. ABC News’ Nightline did a special report.
In his much publicized Feb. 18 speech attacking the SAT, University of California President Richard C. Atkinson proposed that his university’s eight campuses stop using the test as an admissions requirement. The result, he said, would be to "help all students, especially low-income and minority students, determine their own educational destinies."
Al Gore saw his opening, and he took it. Campaigning last Wednesday in Backlick, Ohio, the vice president unexpectedly tossed aside the top of a scheduled speech about energy and the environment and instead launched into a passionate lecture about the importance of the Supreme Court. All morning, Gore had been asking aides to inform him as soon as the court handed down its expected final opinions of the year. At about 11 a.m., just as Air Force Two was touching down in Ohio, he got the news he’d been waiting to hear: the justices had struck down laws in 31 states banning so-called partial-birth abortions, the controversial late-term procedure denounced by abortion opponents. But the vote was close–5-4–and the vice president couldn’t wait to seize the opportunity to raise doubts about George W. Bush. The vice president immediately reworked his speech. “The next president will nominate… perhaps four justices to the Supreme Court,” Gore warned in the new, improved text. “One extra vote on the wrong side,” he said, “would change the outcome, and a woman’s right to choose would be taken away.”
Gore’s warning was an exaggeration, to say the least. In fact, six of the nine current justices have supported fairly broad abortion rights. Still, Bush chose to downplay the decision, wary of being dragged into an abortion brawl that could put him on the wrong side of public opinion, sending moderate voters–especially women–fleeing. But he couldn’t avoid the matter entirely: Bush issued a terse statement saying he would “fight for a ban on partial-birth abortion.” Later in the week he cut a deal to keep the GOP’s hard-line anti-abortion plank in the party’s platform.
The Supreme Court probably reached the right result in its 7-1 decision striking down all-male education at the Virginia Military Institute, given the state’s failure to offer any genuinely equal opportunity to women.
But even so, the broad sweep of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s June 26 majority opinion in United States v. Virginia could end up doing more harm than good. The Ginsburg opinion contains some powerful and persuasive reasoning. But it unwisely and unnecessarily leaves a cloud over all single-sex education, especially in public institutions; it raises too high the constitutional barrier against sex-based governmental distinctions, at a time when sex discrimination by government is simply not a very serious problem; it flirts obliquely with the unprincipled double standard sought by many feminists, who want sex-based programs for females only; and it reads a bit too much like a symbolic affirmation of triumphant feminist ideology rather than a sober exercise in constitutional law.
Most of these points are well made in Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent, which unfortunately undermines its own credibility by featuring wildly hyperbolic claims that the decision "shuts down" VMI and will "destroy" the place.
Hyperbole aside, Scalia may well be right- although I hope he’s wrong-in asserting that the Court’s rationale "ensures that single-sex public education is dead."
This prospect is especially troubling at a time when many educational experts and some feminists are citing powerful evidence that single-sex education can benefit girls and boys alike, and when there is a crying need to encourage experimentation with alternatives to current educational orthodoxies.