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article imageSegregation of America’s Schools Has Returned

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 21, 2009 in World
In conversation with the former principal of an elementary school in Natchitoches, Louisiana I discovered what I have observed in many parts of the country. The school is all black. Segregation has returned.
It was overturned by the courts but has come back more than 50 years after being declared unconstitutional.
Brown vs. the Board of Education is a Supreme Court case that declared that separate schools are unequal. The decision gave impetus to desegregation. Now schools have become re-segregated. I decided to find out where and how this happened and if it was just in the south.
A city one wouldn’t expect to have re-segregation is Seattle, Washington. This town thought liberal by many, voting for Barack Obama in big numbers, has re-segregated schools, as the Seattle Times discussed last year. Furthermore school leaders observe that balance in school demographics isn’t a priority. The reason is simply put. If the neighborhood is segregated, the neighborhood school will be too.
Decades after busing some elementary schools are back segregated once again because of the housing patterns. Parents say they don’t like it, but it’s the byproduct of moves to suburbs and the working class and poor left behind in some areas. I was there in Seattle teaching school and taking graduate courses at the University of Washington when busing began, with ranks of students trying to integrate housing areas by going out in teams and asking managers whether they would rent to a black or mixed couple. I remember the discussions and concerns about busing, most of which didn’t materialize in the same terrible way described by parents concerned about it. But the changes in times and the marketplace of buying and selling brought re-segregation in spite of Seattle’s best efforts. Also, busing didn’t happen throughout the area in a serious fashion because of interruptions of court cases and challenges.
Re-segregation was examined in North Carolina as well as Seattle. A newspaper looked at the problem of racial imbalance in the schools. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina was used to explain what happened. After a racial-balancing busing program, that had produced a model of integration, was struck down by the courts the school district has moved away from integration so that now about half of its elementary schools have fewer than 10% either white or African American students, depending upon the school. "Charlotte is rapidly re- segregating," says Carol Sawyer, a parent and member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Equity Committee. The problem is also deepening, according to the newspaper accounting of the issue.
Brown vs. the Board of Education maintained the inequality of schools that weren’t integrated. What measure might now be applied?
More about Segregation, Brown board education, Busing
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