May 3, 2004
EDUCATION: Judge, students unite for Law Day
Judith Phillips wins the Liberty Bell AwardBy
Record-Eagle staff writer
TRAVERSE CITY - Three junior high students from "intensely white" schools and a black retired Michigan Court of Appeals judge found something to agree on at a Law Day celebration of the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education.
The students were winners of an annual Law Day essay contest on whether affirmative action should be practiced in Michigan colleges. Each of the students argued against giving minorities an advantage in college admissions.
In his speech, Judge Harold Hood argued that school desegregation has a long way to go 50 years after the landmark United States Supreme Court decision that started the desegregation of public schools.
All four spoke Friday at a Law Day lunch sponsored by the Grand Traverse Leelanau Antrim Bar Association.
Hood agreed with one of the themes in the students' essays - that minorities should get a better education before they apply for college.
Fifty years after Brown, Hood said segregation is rampant in public schools in many states, including Michigan, one of the four most segregated states in the country.
Hood cited a Harvard study that found that in the 2001-2002 school year, 43 percent of all U.S. schools were "intensely white," or more than 90 percent white.
While Brown initially made some progress in desegregation, the trend began to reverse in the 1970s as courts returned control to local districts, Hood said. The result has been de facto segregation.
"There is a general agreement, I believe, that diversity is desirable in our society," Hood said. "There is a wide divergence as to how that diversity can best be achieved."
Adam Wills Begley, an East Junior High ninth-grader, took first place in the essay contest. Kelsey Sovereign, a ninth-grader at East Junior High, took second place, and Lawrence Warbasse, an eighth-grader at West Junior High, took third.
Judith Phillips won the Liberty Bell Award, an annual award that recognizes a non-attorney for contributions to the community's understanding of the law.
Phillips, a social studies teacher at Central High School, was honored for her work in running the annual student essay contest and for supporting legal education in schools.