Seattle School District No. 1 and Jefferson County School District (defendants) voluntarily adopted student assignment plans that relied on race to determine which public schools certain children could attend. In each case, the schools used this system to ensure that the racial balance in any given public school fell within a predetermined range based on the racial composition of the school district as a whole. Parents Involved in Community Schools (PICS) (plaintiff) were parents of students denied assignment to particular schools under these plans solely because of their race. PICS brought suit in district court, claiming that the school districts’ actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. The district court dismissed the case and upheld the constitutionality of the racial assignment policy, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.