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The U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled today that sentencing laws which require children convicted of murder to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole are unconstitutional. It is a sign of our times that such a modest ruling — one that still allows kids to be sentenced to life in prison without parole and merely permits judges to consider mitigating facts before imposing such a sentence — would even be controversial.

But, hey, we live in a world in which a Supreme Court Justice — in this case the amazingly reactionary Samuel Alito – can write something like the following (as he did in dissent): Read More

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While the Obama administration has taken some steps in its stance on immigration issues, the U.S. Supreme Court continues to be somewhat sluggish in its decision regarding Arizona’s SB1070.

In similar spirit as protestors in Arizona, local NC groups and individuals in an alliance called “We are NC” will be holding events throughout the state, including an event in downtown Raleigh at 7pm in a “Teach-in and Silent Vigil.”

More information on the Raleigh event can be found on their facebook event page.

And also check out this documentary short following a local NC undocumented youth as part of a master’s thesis by UNC student Josh Davis. His full project, “the undocumentary,” here.

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As is so often the case. Linda Greenhouse of the NYT explains and makes sense of the newly manufactured (and obviosuly politically-motivated) debate over contraceptive coverage.

“Permitting Catholic hospitals to withhold contraception coverage from their 765,000 employees would blow a gaping hole in the regulation. The 629-hospital Catholic health care system is a major and respected health care provider, serving one in every six hospital patients and employing nearly 14 percent of all hospital staff in the country. Of the top 10 revenue-producing hospital systems in 2010, four were Catholic. The San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, the fifth biggest hospital system in the country, had $11 billion in revenue last year and treated 6.2 million patients.

These institutions, as well as Catholic universities – not seminaries, but colleges and universities whose doors are open to all – are full participants in the public square, receiving a steady stream of federal dollars. They assert – indeed, have earned – the right to the same benefits that flow to their secular peers. What they now claim is a right to special treatment: to conscience that trumps law.”

You can read her entire informative piece by clicking here.

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 In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that school districts can no longer use race as a basis for school assignments.

The decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it further restricts how public school systems may attain racial diversity.  (Washington Post )

How will this decision affect schools in North Carolina? Well, the state’s 2 largest school districts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County changed to ‘race neutral’ assignment schemes during 1999-2001.

Popular forms of race-neutral assignment plans include lotteries, socioeconomic status based, geographic proximity and pure choice. These methods have had mixed results.

Since 2002 when Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools implemented a neighborhood-based, limited-choice student assignment plan:

  • The number of hypersegregated schools (schools with more than 90% minority enrollment) more than doubled.
  • The number of segregated schools jumped from 47 to 87 in 2004-2005
  • African-American students effectively lost access to oversubscribed predominantly white schools.
  • There has been no overall progress in black student achievement between 2002 and 2004. 60% of African American high school students failed state accountability tests as compared to 23% of white students.

Wake County schools, which used a socioeconomic status based plan, have not resegregated at the same rate as some districts. However, racial diversity has declined since the adoption of the socioeconomic plan in 2000.

  • In 2003, 39% of African-American students attended a school that had 50% or more minority enrollment, compared to 21% of African-American students in 1999.

The unique demographics of Wake County account for the relative success of the race-neutral assignment plan:

  • Wake County is one of only six counties (out of 100) in North Carolina that have a family poverty rate less than 10%, coupled with a significant racial disparity between poor and non-poor families.
  • African American and Latino students are 10 times more likely to be eligible for free/reduced lunch than white students.

Counties that are not as socioeconomically polarized will have a difficult time replicating Wake County’s diversification success.

Today’s Supreme Court decision certainly throws an interesting twist into the state’s efforts to provide educational equality. School assignment decisions are no longer black and white, but rather rich and poor.