Harvard Law Review
Harv. L. Rev.
In racially diverse metropolitan areas throughout the country, school district boundary lines create impermeable borders, separating affluent and predominantly white school districts from low-income, predominantly nonwhite school districts. The existence of predominantly white and affluent school districts in racially diverse metropolitan areas has material consequences and symbolic meaning. Materially, such districts receive greater educational inputs such as higher per-pupil spending, higher teacher quality, and newer facilities than their neighboring more racially diverse districts. Symbolically, owing to the material and status-based value attached to whiteness, the districts are also viewed as elite, which creates a magnetic effect that draws white affluent families.
Despite the material consequences and symbolic meaning of maintaining predominantly white school districts, a limited amount of scholarship addresses racial segregation in schools from the vantage point of white students. This Article fills that void in the school-desegregation legal literature. It analyzes white-student segregation through a sociological framework called social closure, a process of subordination whereby one group monopolizes advantages by closing off opportunities to other groups. This Article argues that the laws surrounding school district boundary lines enable white students in racially diverse metropolitan areas to engage in social closure and to monopolize high-quality schools.
This Article further suggests that equal protection doctrine, the doctrine traditionally used to address racial segregation in schools, cannot capture the monopolization harms caused by white-student segregation. Therefore, it looks to antitrust law for guidance. It demonstrates how principles from antitrust’s essential facilities doctrine can help conceptualize and remedy the monopolization harms caused by white-student segregation in racially diverse metropolitan areas.