It’s been almost 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, so why are American schools increasingly segregated? According to sociologist Jeremy Fiel, there are a number of factors due to a drastic shift in demographics since the legendary Supreme Court decision that ordered desegregation in schools.
Fiel found two main reasons there was still a strong separation between races in the education system. The first is that the white population has declined, and thus comprises a smaller portion of the student body. After all, 2011 was the first year in which more racial minorities than whites were born in the United States.
But the second factor has to do with policies that don’t address the fact that in the ’60s there was extreme segregation within the districts, but now what we see is an imbalance between them. Studies show that certain school districts are primarily composed of minority students, whereas others are mostly made up of white children. The Atlantic explains why this modern day segregation poses a significant problem:
...schools seem to be trending back toward their segregated pasts. In the 1968-69 school year, when the U.S. Department of Education started to enforce Brown, about 77 percent of black students and 55 percent of Latino students attended public schools that were more than half-minority. By the 2009-2010 school year, the picture wasn’t much better for black students, and it was far worse for Latinos: 74 percent of black students and 80 percent of Latino students went to schools that were more than half-minority. More than 40 percent of black and Latino students attended schools that were 90 percent to 100 percent minority.
The persistence of segregation is a problem because, today as in the Brown era, separate schools are unequal. “Schools of concentrated poverty and segregated minority schools are strongly related to an array of factors that limit educational opportunities and outcomes,” wrote the authors of a 2012 report by the University of California–Los Angeles’s Civil Rights Project. “These include less experienced and less qualified teachers, high levels of teacher turnover, less successful peer groups and inadequate facilities and learning materials.”
...“The biggest barrier to reducing racial isolation…is racial imbalance between school districts in the same metropolitan area/nonmetropolitan county,” Fiel wrote in his American Sociological Review article.
Inter-district segregation does not come with an easy solution. Creating integrated schools in these areas would require students to travel across district lines—a form of desegregation policy that has been struck down by the Supreme Court.
But Fiel insists new policies and methods of dealing with racial imbalances in the American education system are vital because segregation is occurring “on a much larger scale now.”
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi
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