One of my fondest memories of my K-12 experience at North Penn School District is the overwhelming feeling of confidence, excitement, passion, and pure happiness that I felt walking through the front doors of the schools that I attended. The main entrance was like my gateway to opportunity; after I walked through those front doors, I could do anything. Walking through those doors, I knew that my performance and success was dependent upon my hard work and effort; I knew that I was given the opportunity to challenge myself; I knew that I could pursue my interests through classes and extracurricular activities.
But why would I tell you this story about how walking through the front doors of my schools was such a transformative experience? Because I would be remiss to state that every student feels this way when they walk through the main entrance of their school. While I believe that public schools are meant to be institutions that provide equal educational opportunity to all those who enter through its front doors, reality contradicts my idealistic belief; public schools are more segregated today than they have been since Brown vs. Board of Education.
With that said, throughout this post, we’re going to learn about the resurgence of segregation in the public-school system.
What is Brown vs. Board of Education?
Brown vs. Board of Education was a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court in 1954 to overturn the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling from 1896, which basically authorized segregation through the “separate but equal” law. Brown vs. Board of Education declared that separate schools are “inherently unequal.”
What happened after the ruling?
Ordering lower courts to require desegregation “with all deliberate speed,” the Supreme Court’s ruling sparked initiatives like busing and magnet schools. According to an article published by Teaching Tolerance, such initiatives were used “as appropriate remedies to overcome the role of residential segregation in perpetuating racially segregated schools.” In 1988, school integration was at an all-time high.
What is the current status of school integration in the public-school system?
According to an article published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), by the 62nd anniversary of Brown vs. Board in 2016, the GAO had already investigated the state of public school segregation, later concluding that “Poor, black and Hispanic children are becoming increasingly isolated from their white, affluent peers in the nation’s public schools, according to new federal data showing that the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled between 2001 and 2014.” The report defined a school segregated by race and class as one “where more than 75 percent of children receive free or reduced-price lunch and more than 75 percent are black or Hispanic.”
What does this mean for students?
The most obvious implication here is the serious problem of there being a resurgence of segregation in public-schools throughout the United States. After the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling over 60 years ago, one wouldn’t expect this to be an issue in 2018. However, the prevalence of the problem displays that racism is still alive throughout the system. In addition to this fact, the GAO’s report outlined that students in the largely poor, minority schools were being offered less access to math, science, and college preparation courses. Not only that, but the students in these schools were more likely to experience punishments like suspension or expulsion.
With that said, these students are ultimately being deprived of a quality public-school education that other students have the privilege of receiving. As their access to education diminishes, inequalities inevitably arise.
Let’s see an example
According to an article published by The Washington Post, a judge ordered a Mississippi school district to desegregate 62 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, which was also around the same time that the GAO’s report was published. “Divided by railroad tracks that separate white families, who largely live west of the tracks, from black families, who largely live to the east,” the Cleveland School District was ordered to desegregate its middle and high schools.
Imagine how your experience in school would be different if you were offered less access to math, science, and college prep courses or punished more through suspensions and expulsions. How would this have changed where you stand today? Imagine how you would feel if you were a student being racially segregated. How would this impact your overall health and wellbeing and the way you view equality, society, education, opportunity?