updated 10/20/2005 7:10:25 PM ET 2005-10-20T23:10:25

A federal appeals court Thursday upheld the Seattle school district’s use of race as a tie-breaking factor in high-school admissions.

“We conclude that the district has a compelling interest in securing the educational and social benefits of racial — and ethnic — diversity,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 7-4 ruling. “We also conclude the district’s plan is narrowly tailored to meet the district’s compelling interests.”

In Seattle, students list which high schools they would prefer to attend. When a high school has more applicants than classroom seats, the district uses a series of tiebreakers, including race, to decide who gets in.

A group of parents sued in 2000, arguing that it was unfair for the school district to consider race, and Seattle halted use of the tiebreaker in the 2002-03 school year as the case made its way through state and federal courts.

The 46,000-student district is about 40 percent white.

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