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.

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.

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

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

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 a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.