Segregation: A Modern Problem for Public Schools in the South

Segregation: A Modern Problem for Public Schools in the South
Learn about the unfortunate cases of segregation that are arising in public schools in the South, as well as the legal rulings forcing desegregation once again.

While the Civil Rights era made tremendous strides in fighting for equality, could segregation still plague our public schools five decades later?

In April, a federal judge found that a Mississippi school district was "flagrantly" violating a desegregation court order. The Walthall County school district has been ordered to change its attendance policies, as reported by ABC News. Unfortunately, this report is not the first to appear about a southern school in the throes of resegregation accusations.

Is segregation returning to our public education system? Perhaps it is time to look at the policies surrounding our schools to find out.

A Brief History

The history of government involvement in desegregation only goes back about half a century. In 1954, the Brown vs. Board of Education case resulted in the Supreme Court's decision that "racially segregated schools" were "inherently unequal." The following year, the Court outlined a plan for racial desegregation, with orders for segregated schools to make the appropriate changes "with all deliberate speed."

However, some schools did not make the necessary adjustments expeditiously, and in 1969, the Court came out with another ruling to push the desegregation process along. Alexander vs. Holmes County Board led to the Court requiring schools to desegregate right away and operate only as "unitary" schools in the future.

Today's Problem

Since the Alexander vs. Holmes County Board decision, schools have worked toward desegregation in all areas of the country. Unfortunately, the process has not been met without undue opposition from many, demonstrating that legislation can only go so far in changing hearts and minds. Still, diversity reigned for several decades, providing students with a broader educational spectrum and theoretically offering equal educational opportunities to all children.

However, times are changing once again. For example, the Mississippi school district in question today, Walthall County, has been investigated by the Justice Department since November 2007 due to questions about clustered schools and classrooms. These clusters reportedly changed the racial makeup of schools and classrooms, concentrating more on white children in some areas and creating nearly all-black schools and classes.

The racial shift is allegedly due to transfer policies that liberally allow parents of white children to move their students to other schools in predominantly white areas. According to prosecutors, the "district annually permits over 300 transfer students – the vast majority of whom are white to attend Salem Attendance Center even though they reside in the Tylertown attendance zone." This process has resulted in "a racially identifiable white school" outside the home district and Tylertown schools that have become "predominantly black."

North Carolina's Drift

Mississippi isn't the only area where resegregation has become a concern. According to a report in Chicago Defender, two North Carolina school boards have also been scrutinized.

New Hanover County and Wake County have been the locations of debates between parents and administrators over rezoning rules within the districts that would result in more segregated schools based on neighborhood demographics. Despite the genuine concern of many parents, educators, and school board members about the detrimental effects such changes would produce, there is a solid support base for such rezoning to take place.

Dangers of Segregation

According to experts in the field of education, separating school populations based on race may have very detrimental effects on all of the students involved. In his 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, "We conclude that, in public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, because of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment."

The Washington Post reported on a federal court decision two years ago that prohibited voluntary local efforts to integrate schools. In this story, the Post cites research from a leading U.S. research center that shows a trend toward resegregation "damages the prospects for non-white students and will likely hurt the U.S. economy." In addition, the Chicago Defender cites input from Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Orfield states that "segregation is not good for our children."

Just this month, District Court Judge Tom S. Lee issued an order for policies of the Walthall County school district that led to segregation to be reversed. Judge Lee also called for more oversight and specific guidelines governing transfer requests. The Walthall school district will now be watched to ensure that new policies are implemented to reverse segregation once and for all – and we hope that segregation does not rear its ugly head in America's schools again.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook @publicschoolreview

#SegregationInSchools #ModernSegregation #PublicSchoolsInTheSouth #RacialDivide

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