USA Today: Ruling Threatens School 'Integration'; Biskupic Buries Roberts Reasoning

I could not leave this untouched. Joan Biskupic, the same Supreme Court reporter I accused of sounding like a John McCain press flack, has given us a gem of a skewed report on a 5-4 decision today about the use of race as a factor in managing public school registration.

Let's walk through it shall we?

When reporting on a key Supreme Court ruling, it's kind of nice to give readers a glance of the reasoning of the majority first. Makes sense, right. After all, the focus is supposed to be the party at suit that, well, WINS. But Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote for the majority, isn't quoted until the 9th paragraph. Justice Kennedy's more restrained concurring opinion is referenced in the fourth, but it's dissenting liberal Justice Stephen Breyer who draws first ink in the third paragraph.

Below are the first four paragraphs (my emphasis in bold), punctuated by my commentary:

WASHINGTON — In a sweeping decision likely to affect school integration efforts nationwide, the Supreme Court on Thursday threw out programs from Louisville and Seattle that used students' race as a factor in school placement to build diversity across a district.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced the decision decrying racial considerations in public schools and was joined by his four fellow conservatives. The ruling prompted liberal justices to declare they feared for the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 landmark that set the nation on the path of desegregation.

Do you catch this? The implication is that somehow Brown has not been fully implemented and that there's racial injustice in America with segregated schools. But NO public school in America is segregated de jure (by law) and disparities in racial demographics in public schools today are a function of geography, not of a bigoted effort by government to segregate the races.

Justice Stephen Breyer read a 21-minute dissent from the bench, likely a modern record for a dissenting justice's oral protest. "What of the hope and promise of Brown?" he asked as he warned that the court and the nation would come to regret Thursday's decision.

Justice Anthony Kennedy provided the majority its key fifth vote. He wrote separately to say that the door is still open to a district that seeks to broadly consider schools' racial make-up, rather than look at individual students. He said officials could pursue racial diversity by strategically considering where to build a school or where to allocate resources.

Again, the focus is on the liberal minority and their righteous indignation at, well, being on the LOSING side of a Court case. That's immediately followed by swing vote Kennedy holding out the possibility that race may be used as A consideration, just not THE consideration in school districting.

Five paragraphs later, Biskupic finally gets around to quoting Roberts:

"Classifying and assigning schoolchildren according to race is an extreme approach," Roberts wrote for the court as it found that the Louisville and Seattle programs violated the Constitution's equality guarantee.

That's nice, but certainly not the best one-liner from his opinion.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race," the Los Angeles Time's David G. Savage and Joel Havemann quoted the Chief Justice in the second paragraph of their coverage of the court cases.

Related blog posts here and here. Mark Finkelstein also tracked Biskupic's bias in a Today show appearance earlier this month.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters