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Students, parents and educators rally at the Supreme Court in Washington on Tuesday for the 60th anniversary Brown
v. Board of Education decision that struck down the “separate but equal” concept established under Plessy v. Ferguson
that kept schools segregated. Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Progress toward integrated classrooms has largely been rolled back since the Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision 60 years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Blacks are now seeing more school segregation than they have in decades, and more than half of Latino students are now attending schools that are majority Latino.
In New York, California and Texas, more than half of Latino students are enrolled in schools that are 90 percent minority or more, the report found. In New York, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan, more than half of black students attend schools where 90 percent or more are minority.
Project co-director Gary Orfield, author of the "Brown at 60" report, said the changes are troubling because they show some minority students receive poorer educations than white students and Asian students, who tend to be in middle-class schools. The report urged, among other things, deeper research into housing segregation, which is a "fundamental cause of separate-and-unequal schooling."
Although segregation is more prevalent in central cities of the largest metropolitan areas, it's also in the suburbs. "Neighborhood schools, when we go back to them, as we have, produce middle-class schools for whites and Asians and segregated high-poverty schools for blacks and Latinos, " Orfield said.
Housing discrimination - stopping or discouraging minorities from moving to majority-white areas - also plays a role in school segregation and "that's been a harder nut to crack, " said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which argued the Brown case in front of the Supreme Court.
School performance can be entwined with poverty, too.
"These are the schools that tend to have fewer resources, tend to have teachers with less experience, tend to have people who are teaching outside their area of specialty, and it also denies the opportunities, the contacts and the networking that occur when you're with people from different socio-economic backgrounds, " said Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program.
For students like Diamond McCullough, 17, a senior at Walter H. Dyett High School on Chicago's South Side, the disparities are real. Her school is made up almost entirely of African-American students. She said her school doesn't offer physical education classes or art, and Advanced Placement classes are only available online.
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