A federal judge has ruled that a UCLA-run elementary school may continue to use ethnicity as an admissions criteria because it is one of the nation’s last remaining “laboratory” schools.
In an opinion released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Kenyon found that the Corrine A. Seeds University Elementary School--known as UES--must assemble a student body that reflects California’s racial and economic diversity to do credible research that benefits the state’s schoolchildren.
School officials “have successfully proven that the use of racial and ethnic identity criteria in UES’s admission policy is narrowly tailored to serve the purpose of a compelling state interest,” Kenyon wrote.
The ruling means that the school, which is on UCLA’s campus, will be allowed to conduct itself in stark contrast to UC, which has banned consideration of race, ethnicity or gender in admissions to its graduate and professional schools. That ban will be extended to undergraduate admissions next year.
Kenyon’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed against the UC Board of Regents in 1995 by the mother of a Brentwood girl, alleging that the school had unfairly excluded her child. The same year, the judge ordered that the 4-year-old, Keeley Tatsuyo Hunter, be admitted to the school pending resolution of the lawsuit. She has been a student there ever since.
In his action this week, Kenyon vacated his earlier order, meaning that it would be legal for the school to ask the girl to leave.
UCLA Vice Chancellor Ted Mitchell said school officials have not yet decided whether she will be allowed to stay.
“The judge has clearly decided that Keeley should not be treated with any special preference from this point on. That does throw the decision to us,” he said. “But we’ve always said that this is not a court case about a little girl. This is a court case about a serious matter of principle. And that will drive our thinking.”
The 1995 lawsuit also complained that the school favored the children of the rich, but that allegation was no longer at issue.