Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and the Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECRA) have filed a friend-of-court brief on behalf of youth advocates and experts in educational access. This brief contributes to the records of two cases currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, No. 19-2005 (U.S. March 1, 2021) and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina, et al., No. 21-2263 (U.S. November 15, 2021).

The fifteen amici describe compelling research showing how the life experiences of students contribute to the skills they bring to succeed in college, and how life experiences related to racial identity can reveal attributes which might otherwise be omitted from myopic review of resume entries, bereft of race-conscious consideration. Amici also describe how racial disparities in public elementary and secondary school funding cause negative, cascading impacts on the college applications of youth of color who have fewer opportunities to illustrate their equivalent talents in underfunded schools. The brief concludes that if colleges truly want the most qualified candidates with established attributes for success, such as maturity, resilience, intellectual curiosity, honesty, and motivation, it is imperative that schools be permitted to take into account the race-related life experiences that reflect such attributes. Amici call upon the Supreme Court to affirm the decisions of the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the Middle District of North Carolina.

The brief was organized through the work of the Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECRA).  ECRA is a diverse and experienced group of organizers, educator organizations, community groups, professional associations, and civil rights organizations committed to protecting the civil rights of marginalized students. Signatories to the brief include the following members and allies of the ECRA:

The Civitas ChildLaw Center is a nationally recognized program of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Founded in 1993, the Civitas ChildLaw Center’s mission is to prepare law students and lawyers to be ethical and effective advocates for children, their families, and communities through interdisciplinary teaching, scholarship, and service. One of the components of the Civitas ChildLaw Center is the Education Law and Policy Institute, which offers a specialized curriculum, advocacy resources, and research related to education law and policy. Through direct representation and policy advocacy, the Institute seeks to address and remedy barriers to educational opportunity. Given the continued impact of race and ethnicity on the life experiences and outcomes of children and families, the Civitas ChildLaw Center has a strong interest in ensuring that higher education institutions are preparing a diverse pool of graduates to become attorneys and advocates in the field of children’s law and policy.

The Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues (CWI) was established in 1974 to improve the status of women and girls, nationally and internationally. CWI addresses economic, social, political, and legal issues facing women and girls and works to eliminate discrimination, including discrimination based on sex, age, ethnicity, or marital status. CWI signs on or sponsors amicus briefs in legal actions to further our purpose.

Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE) is a nationwide alliance of hundreds of deans of colleges and schools of education advancing equity and justice in education by speaking and acting collectively and in solidarity with communities regarding policies, reform proposals, and public debates. We speak on issues from the perspective of educational research.

The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1987, is dedicated to the pursuit of women’s equality, using research and action to empower women economically, socially, and politically. FMF actively supports diversity in public education, including at the university level, which helps to reduce stereotypes and enriches the educational experience for all students.

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to achieving equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. IDRA develops innovative research- and experience-based solutions to ensure that all students have access to and succeed in high-quality schools. Since its founding in 1973, IDRA has also engaged in substantial preK-12 policy work both at the state and federal levels, advocating for education policies that prepare students, especially students of color and students in families with low incomes, to graduate college- and career-ready. IDRA champions equitable channels that enable all students to overcome systemic barriers and enter the preK-12 pipeline to higher education.

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is a non-profit organization that works to build a future in which every child thrives and has a full and fair opportunity to achieve the future they envision for themselves. For five decades, NCYL has worked to protect the rights of marginalized and low-income children and to ensure that they have the resources, support, and opportunities they need. One of NCYL’s priorities is to ensure youth of color have access to equitable education opportunities in public schools and beyond. NCYL provides representation to children and youth in cases that have broad impact, and has represented many students in individual and class litigation and administrative complaints to ensure their access to adequate, appropriate, and non-discriminatory services. NCYL currently represents students of color in impact litigation challenging the deeply entrenched unequal distribution of educational resources in this country.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is a national organization exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families, including with respect to access to higher education.

The Native American Disability Law Center (NADLC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity located in Arizona and New Mexico. It is the American Indian Consortium of the protection and advocacy (P&A) system designated by the Navajo and Hopi Nations and serving Native American communities across the Four Corners region of the Southwest. The NADLC provides individual and systemic advocacy for Native American children receiving special education services across multiple educational entities, including the Bureau of Indian Education. Education cases comprise a significant portion of the NADLC’s individual cases, with those cases primarily brought pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Peer Defense Project works with youth leaders to design legal tools, networks, and knowledge to build youth power and dignity in schools, courts, and government. The Peer Defense Project builds legal tools to support youth leaders to dismantle school segregation and racial inequities in K-12 education.

Public Counsel has worked with communities and clients for over fifty years to create a more just society through legal services, advocacy, and civil rights litigation. Too often, the current U.S. education system works to reinforce existing inequities, biases, and segregation.  Public Counsel aims to ensure that public schools are engines of equality and opportunity and that all children have equal access to education.

The Shriver Center on Poverty Law (Shriver Center) has a vision of a nation free from poverty with justice, equity, and opportunity for all. The Shriver Center provides national leadership to promote justice and improve the lives and opportunities of low-income people by advancing laws and policies through litigation, as well as legislative and administrative advocacy. The Shriver Center is committed to economic and racial justice, which includes pursuing economic and racial justice in education.

The Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture (SSPC) is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary organization devoted to furthering research, clinical care, and education in cultural aspects of mental health and illness. Founded in 1980, it aims to promote cultural psychiatry in North American professional groups and to collaborate with national and international organizations in the development of policy and practice. Primarily rooted in North America, SSPC provides an interface for domestic and international interests of cultural psychiatry and mental health, and has a diverse international membership of professionals and students from psychiatry, psychology, nursing, and the social sciences who are at various stages of practice, teaching, or training. SSPC focuses attention on the importance of cultural factors including diversity, inclusion, and equity in psychiatric care, education, and research through group and individual efforts.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public interest law organization founded in 2007 in Durham, North Carolina. SCSJ partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. One of SCSJ’s primary practice areas is youth advocacy under the umbrella of our Youth Justice Project.  SCSJ works with youth in underfunded high schools across North Carolina and issues yearly Racial Equity Report Cards, rating school systems across the state on how their programs and practices are meeting children of color’s needs.

Teach For America’s mission is to enlist, develop, and mobilize a group of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity.  As one of our nation’s leading recruiters of teachers of color for public schools, Teach For America’s interest is that our country’s institutions of higher education produce outstanding, engaged cohorts of racially and socio-economically diverse graduates. If colleges and universities are no longer permitted to consider applicants’ race as part of a narrowly-tailored, holistic admissions process to attain diversity, they will enroll, and graduate, fewer under-represented students because systemic inequities prevent many students of color from accessing a high quality K-12 education. Such a development would impede Teach For America’s nationwide efforts to work towards equity and excellence in P-12 education by recruiting and training a diverse and talented corps of teachers and education leaders. Ultimately, Teach For America believes that a diverse educator workforce will positively impact the educational experience for all students.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee (Committee) for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs is a nonprofit organization that works to create legal, economic, and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. The Committee recognizes the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognizes the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combating, and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For the last 50 years, the Committee has been on the cutting edge of civil rights advocacy, bringing precedent setting litigation to address discrimination, including education discrimination, and advocating for equal educational opportunity for all students.

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