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Running Head: WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALWhen Separate is Not Equal:Issues in 21st century school segregationMary LugoBIL 641Nazareth College of RochesterWHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALWhen Separate is Not Equal: Issues in 21st century school segregationThe education system within the United States has long been a consequenceof social class, cultural background, socioeconomic status and racism. The UnitedStates since its inception has been founded on roots of slave labor, inequality, andinjustice for anyone who was not a white, land-owning male. These attitudespermeated every aspect of daily life from segregated movie theatres, waterfountains, and even schools. Although America may be known as “Land of theFree”, this did not apply to everyone.Schools have been a battleground of equal rights and often the only way toachieve a better life, but are often the byproduct of unjust laws. Landmarksupreme court cases shape American attitudes and, more importantly, Americanlaws. Brown vs.

Board of Education (1954) and Parents Involved in CommunitySchools (PICS) vs. Seattle School District No. 1 (2006) and Meredith vs.

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JeffersonCounty Board of Education (2006) are no exception to this rule and have had aprofound impact on how American schools look and operate.Literature ReviewBrown vs. the Board of EducationBrown vs.

the Board of Education (1954) represented the pinnacle of the CivilRights Movement during the mid-1950s. It was a major win for those seeking notonly equality, but justice, and its effects went well beyond the school setting. Thesupreme court defined segregation as “inherently unequal” and no matter whatresources were given or how well they mirrored each other, separate could neverLugo 1WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALbe equal (Stuart Wells , Fox, & Cordova-Cobo, 2016). This decision had sweepingeffects across the country as school integration was no longer a choice andseparate facilities like movie theatres, restaurants, water fountains, bathrooms, etc.

were no longer acceptable. Although in the eyes of the law, segregation was notlegal, the way this law has been interpreted by state and local governmentscontinues to place minorities at the bottom. Additionally, suburban districts, incomparison to urban districts, represent a de facto segregation where urbanschools are filled with economically disadvantaged minority children in subparfacilities.Seattle & Kentucky CasesIn an effort to create more diverse schools, districts in Seattle and Kentuckyvoluntarily adopted student assignment methods based on race to ensure a certainratio of white to non-white students.

Most districts throughout the country placestudents based on their address, whereas these districts assigned students toschools in order to maintain a specific percentage of minority students and usedrace as a “tie breaker” to determine where a student would attend.The Seattle school district allowed families to choose schools for theirchildren. For schools with too many applicants, a tiered tie breaker system wasutilized and one tie breaker was race to maintain a 40% white and 60% non-whitestudent body (PICS, n.d.). This worked in both directions, if there were too manyapplicants but the school did not meet their 40% white enrollment, they wouldselect a white student over a non-white student or vise versa if they were not at aLugo 2WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUAL60% non-white enrollment (PICS, n.d.

). Some families were not satisfied with thistie breaker system and joined to form a non-profit, Parents Involved in CommunitySchools, to begin legal action on the basis of this system violating the EqualProtection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil RIghts Act. The EqualProtection Clause prohibits “states from denying any person within its territorythe equal protection of the laws.” (Legal Information Institute, n.d.). In thiscase, that was denying students based on race when attempting to maintaina ratio of racial diversity.

This supreme court decision on behalf of PICS wasa huge blow to the school desegregation movement and served as guidingpoint for future cases and school districts across the country.The Meredith vs. Jefferson County Board of Education (2006) almost exactlymirrors the Seattle case. Meredith and other parents joined together to advocatethat school placement based on race was a violation of the FourteenthAmendment. This Kentucky school district used a similar tie breaker to maintain apercentage of at least 15%, not to exceed 50%, non-white student enrollment.Local district courts initially decided that the tiebreaker was constitutional in 2003but Meredith and others continued to appeal until it landed at the Supreme Court.In tandem with the PICS case, the Supreme Court decided on behalf of Meredithand deemed the racially based enrollment process to be a violation of theconstitution (Meredith, n.

d.).Based On this supreme court decisions, these districts were now responsiblefor constructing a different system for school assignment that did not considerLugo 3WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALracial enrollment proportions as entry requirements. Richard Kahlenberg, reporterfor The American Prospect, highlights that school integration based on racefunctions under the premise that children who are non-white are disadvantaged. Inreality, the children who are disadvantaged are those, white or non-white, living inpoverty.

By placing students based on their race, you are not necessarily bridgingachievement gaps because there is no guarantee non-white students will comefrom disadvantaged backgrounds (Kahlenberg, 2008). In 1993, schools in Jeffersoncounty varied between 9 and 99 percent of students receiving free and reducedlunch, highlighting the socioeconomic disparities (Kahlenberg, 2008). Jeffersoncounty is currently utilizing a diversity plan that takes into account socioeconomicstatus over race as a method for diversifying their schools.Consequences of Integrated SchoolsThanks to the wonders of technology the global community is moreintegrated than ever before.

Hundreds of countries, dozens of languages, andinfinite backgrounds come together to create a multicultural and multilingual globalmarket. The United States is in a position of educating the next generation to beactive players in this market to stay relevant and competitive. In order to do this, afamiliarity of other cultures and languages is paramount (Stuart Wells , Fox, &Cordova-Cobo, 2016). Even for those that may not speak another language, anattitude of acceptance towards new and different groups and cultures sets the nextgeneration up to be successful. It becomes increasingly difficult to create globalLugo 4WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALcitizens if students attend schools that are homogeneous in race, culture, language,or socioeconomic status.

The benefits of school integration have been well documented by researchand personal stories. The Century Foundation (2016), a nonpartisan progressivethink tank with a focus on reducing inequality describes the academic, cognitive,social-emotional, civic and economic benefits of integration for all students.Academically and cognitively, as measured on standardized testing, students inintegrated schools (SIS) have higher average test scores, are more likely to enroll incollege, less likely to drop out, reduce racial achievement gaps, and encouragecritical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Civically and socio-emotionally, SIScan help reduce racial bias and counter stereotypes, these students are more likelyto seek out integrated settings in the future, can improve intellectualself-confidence, and enhance student leadership skills. Economically, integratedschools return on their investment by preparing more students to effectively enterthe workforce, they also promote more equitable access to resources, and preparestudents to succeed in a global economy (The Century Fund, 2016).If we know school integration is so great, why are so many people against it?Matt Barnum, journalist for an organization covering educationnews in America, lists arguments against school integration.

These argumentsinclude a parental fear that resources and opportunities will be taken from theirchild due to a disadvantaged student absorbing them. Concerns related to theimpact of additional busing time and the negative factors related to children whoLugo 5WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALlive in “dangerous” urban areas. Anti-integrationists also highlight successfulcharter schools with low white student enrollment as exampars that integration isnot necessary. Lobbyists and politicians also claim that pushes for integration takeattention away from arguments for additional school funding and may hurt urbanschools (Barnum, 2016). Many of these claims are simply anecdotal and are notsupported by, nor based on, research.ReflectionAs a student, I was a product of a school integration program and have livedto witness the benefit and experience of providing students access to an educationthey could not achieve based on their zip code. For the six years between sixth and12th grade, I attended Brockport High School through the Urban-SuburbanProgram which describes itself as “the first and oldest voluntary desegregationprogram in the United States”.

This program is offered through Monroe OneBOCES and transports academically strong cally students from the city of Rochesterto suburban schools. Attending Brockport for six years exposed to manyexperiences, extracurriculars, and a quality education that encouraged me to seekhigher education. I don’t believe my education would be the same if I graduatedfrom a city school. After graduating early, I went on to obtain a Bachelor’s andMaster’s degree to become a speech pathologist. As a student who attended cityschools for the first part of my life, I wanted to use my education to support thecommunity I grew up in.Lugo 6WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALAs an educator working in the same school district I eventually left, I see theimpact of students and families living in poverty, the struggle of families that arenot proficient English, and I see the impact of classes of students that cannotconnect to educators because they don’t share the same experiences. The rates ofcity school district students who dropout of school, don’t graduate, or end upincarcerated highlights the need for a different system. Integrated school systemswill surely not solve all educational problems but it is a good start to begin closingthe achievement gap between minorities and their white peers.

Implication for Today’s StudentsThe United States is experiencing a shift in demographics with spikes ifimmigrants, refugees, and those fleeing their home countries due to naturaldisasters. This changing demographic is changing what our schools are and callingfor solutions to acknowledge racial and linguistic diversity.”Broken” is an understatement when describing the current educationalsystem in the United States. Too many children are being robbed of theopportunity to access quality education due to failures at all levels of thegovernmental, social, and economic hierarchies. The current political climate in theUnited States transmits divisive rhetoric shifting the views of uneducated andxenophobic voters. Diversity makes us smarter and was the foundation of theUnited States. Now we need to work on transforming what diversity looks like inour schools to create a 21st century solution.

Lugo 7WHEN SEPARATE IS NOT EQUALWorks CitedBarnum, M. (2016). 12 Things to Know About **School Segregation** – and HowIntegration Helps Students.

Retrieved from, R. (2008, June 2). The New Look of School Integration. Retrieved from Information Institute Staff.

(2016, June 13). Equal Protection. Retrieved from

edu/wex/equal_protectionMeredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. (n.d.

). Oyez. Retrieved July 30,2018, from Involved in Community Schools (PICS) v.

Seattle School District No. 1. (n.d.).Oyez. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://www.oyez.

org/cases/2006/05-908Stuart Wells, A., Fox, L., & Cordova-Cobo, D. (2016, February 09). How RaciallyDiverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students.

Retrieved fromhttps://www.tcf.orgThe Century Foundation. (2016, February 10). The Benefits of Socioeconomicallyand Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms.

Retrieved fromhttps://www.tcf.orgLugo 8


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