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Race dropped in drawing school district’s lines

/ Source: The Associated Press

School board trustees in this Orange County suburb have voted to stop using students' race to determine where they will go to school.

The vote Monday was part of a settlement with parents who sued the Capistrano Unified School District for including ethnicity as a factor when new school boundaries were drawn last year.

As part of the settlement, the group Neighborhood Schools for Our Kids has agreed to drop its lawsuit. Also, students in the predominantly white Talega neighborhood will be permitted to continue attending their current high school instead of a new campus that opens next fall, said Paul Beard, a lawyer for the parents.

"We are happy that the district is abandoning a policy that can only be described as racial gerrymandering," Beard said in a news release.

District officials said race was only one factor considered in drawing the school boundaries, along with distance and convenience. Ignoring race could lead to de facto segregation, they said.

"There was an attempt to keep the racial numbers in balance," district spokeswoman Beverly DeNicola said.

A Superior Court judge ruled in August that the district could use race as a factor. But she also ruled that school boundaries the board adopted last year, which were aimed at balancing ethnicity, violated Proposition 209.

That 1996 voter initiative bars discrimination or preferential treatment based on race or ethnicity.