When a student misbehaves, race plays a role in how harshly the student is disciplined. Given the long history of racial discrimination in the United States, as well as prevalent implicit biases, Black and Latino students are disciplined at higher rates with stiffer punishments than their white peers. This higher level of discipline leads to a downward spiral of poor school performance and attendance, involvement in illegal activity, and arrest and imprisonment. Ultimately, Black and Latino students fall victim to a school-to-prison pipeline that many white students are not pushed into despite similar misbehavior. In order to protect students from the pipeline, equalize educational opportunities, and create a safe and welcoming school environment, it is necessary for the federal government to invalidate disciplinary policies that cause an unjustified, disparate impact.
Under President Obama, a first-ever policy guidance on student discipline was issued, which stated that not only are intentionally discriminatory policies unlawful per Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but so too are facially neutral policies that cause an unjustified disparate impact. The Trump Administration rolled back the policy guidance, citing that a disparate impact policy is not a Title VI violation per current precedent and that invalidating disparate impact disciplinary policies makes schools less safe and more prone to shootings. This Note will examine those arguments and will conclude that the disparate impact standard is supported by current precedent, does not increase the rate of school shootings, and ultimately should be reinstated. The disparate impact standard is a necessary safeguard against negative, implicit attitudes and is an important step in eradicating the school-to-prison pipeline.
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This Note examines the arguments made in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College, which allege that Harvard’s consideration of race is a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it is not narrowly tailored to a compelling interest of diversity. The complaint filed by Students for Fair Admissions (“SFFA”) came off the back of Justice Alito’s comments in his dissent in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II), which proposed the possibility that Asian Americans may face discrimination in admissions. While this was an important inclusion of Asian Americans in the discussion, Justice Alito’s comments in Fisher II perpetuated the logical fallacy that Asian Americans are losing admission spots to African Americans and Hispanic Americans due to affirmative action, and may have encouraged the initiation of SFFA’s action against Harvard College. However, while the frustration experienced by many in the Asian American community over what feels like racial ceilings on Asian American admissions at elite universities is valid, these ceilings are the result of negative action aimed against Asian Americans, not the result of affirmative action. Prohibiting universities from considering race as part of a holistic admissions process will not eliminate the negative action felt by Asian Americans.
Although sometimes difficult to detect, governmental power abuses can have detrimental impacts. Property tax assessments provide an effective lens to examine this phenomenon because, given the complexity of calculating property tax assessments, it is difficult for citizens to know when local government has exceeded its legitimate taxing authority and crossed into the realm of illegal extraction. Michigan is an ideal case study because it protects property owners by making assessment-related power abuses more visible through a unique state constitutional provision: property tax assessments cannot exceed 50 percent of a property’s market value. Abuses have persisted nevertheless. Between 2011 and 2015, one in four properties in Detroit were subject to property tax foreclosure, and inflated property tax assessments that violate the Michigan Constitution are the unseen thread in this complex tapestry of foreclosure.
Against this backdrop, this Article makes three primary contributions. First, no other article has argued and proven that property tax assessments in Detroit are illegal. Using assessment and sales data from 2009–2015 for the entire City of Detroit, we find that property tax assessments are substantially in excess of the state constitutional limit, and this illegality is most pronounced for lower-valued properties. Second, to remedy inflated assessments, in 2014 and 2015 Detroit’s assessor implemented assessment decreases ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent for select districts, but we find that systemic assessment inequity persisted for lower valued properties despite these reductions. Third, this Article uses the case of illegal property tax assessments in Detroit to develop a new theoretical concept called “stategraft,” which is when state agents transfer property from residents to the state in violation of the state’s own laws and to the detriment of a vulnerable group. Although the concept was developed using the Detroit case, stategraft applies beyond Detroit to many other cases, including the discriminatory fines imposed and enforced by the police and courts in Ferguson, Missouri; broken treaties with Native Americans; and abuses of civil forfeiture laws.
The use of harsh, punitive disciplinary measures has become pervasive in our elementary and secondary schools. Many believe these “zero tolerance” educational policies, in which students are suspended or expelled from school for minor violations, are having disastrous effects on students across the country and are responsible for pushing many students out of school and into the hands of the juvenile justice system. Minority students, especially African Americans, have been disproportionately affected by these zero tolerance policies. With increasing success, advocates, parents, and students have been trying to change the way school officials discipline their students, though legislative and litigation efforts and grassroots community organizing. This Note discusses how advocates can use California’s anti-discrimination statute, California Government Code section 11135, to combat the disproportionate effect zero tolerance polices have on African American students.
Increasingly, clashes between the demands of law and aspirations of religion center on the legal status and treatment of religious institutions. Much of the rising tensions revolving around religious institutions stem from conflicts between the religious objectives of those institutions and their impact on third parties who do not necessarily share those same objectives. Indeed, these persisting tensions have pressed two fundamental questions to the forefront of legal debate: what institutions count as religious institutions and to what extent should these institutions be excused from complying with otherwise valid laws?
In February 2014, the Kansas House of Representatives proposed a bill that would have permitted business owners with religious objections to deny some customers services and accommodations. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, Kansas legislators would have allowed citizens of Topeka to refuse restrooms, restaurants, and water fountains to other citizens.
Across the state of California today, conservative religious student groups are no longer welcome on public school campuses like Hastings College of the Law. And it’s not just the West Coast. Vanderbilt University, Bowdoin College, and a number of other schools have also kicked out conservative religious groups. These schools rely on “all-comers” policies that require student groups to accept any student who wants to join, irrespective of a student’s beliefs or actions. Conservative religious groups with creedal membership or leadership requirements are unable to comply.
In 2006, an Albuquerque photographer declined to photograph a same-sex wedding, citing religious objections. The couple sued her for discrimination and won. Cases like this one present a conflict between gay rights and religious liberty. Religious conservatives feel that it would be sinful for them to personally facilitate same-sex marriages, and they have sought to amend the laws to accommodate their objections. These efforts have met fierce resistance. In Arizona, the only state where a legislature has passed a religious accommodation law, the governor vetoed it in response to enormous national public pressure.
The resistance is largely unnecessary. Gay rights advocates have misconceived the tort of discrimination as a particularized injury to the person, rather than the artifact of social engineering that it really is. Religious conservatives likewise have failed to grasp the purposes of antidiscrimination law, and so have demanded accommodations that would be massively overbroad.
When Vanessa Willock emailed Elane Photography seeking information about photography services for her upcoming commitment ceremony, she was likely expecting a run-of-the-mill response—pricing information, samples of prior work, a discussion of the photographer’s availability for the date in question. She was not expecting Elaine Huguenin, a co-owner of Elane Photography, to refuse the commission outright on the ground that she “[did] not photograph same-sex weddings.” Likewise, when Charlie Craig and David Mullins entered Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado to order a cake for a party celebrating their Massachusetts marriage, they probably were not expecting the owner, Jack Phillips, to refuse their business because his religious convictions prevented him from making cakes for same-sex weddings.