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A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Seattle School District’s policy of using race as a tiebreaker in high school admissions is illegal. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision last year by a federal judge who found that the policy was legal because it applied to whites and nonwhites. In Seattle, students may pick which high schools they would like to attend. If too many students pick the same school, the district uses tiebreakers to determine who will be admitted. The first tiebreaker is whether a student has a brother or sister already attending the school. The second is race. If a school is predominantly white, nonwhites are given preference, and vice versa. The case was brought by four families who say their children have been or may be denied admission to schools of their choice because of their race. A law passed by voters in 1998 banned racial preferences in government jobs, contracts and school admissions. In last year’s ruling, the judge said the school district’s policy was legal because it “falls indiscriminately on whites and nonwhites alike, ensuring a racially integrated system for the benefit of the school district as a whole.” The appeals court, however, noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that distinctions made between citizens solely because of their ancestry are “odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.” Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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