Why More Children are Attending Segregated Schools

BY: TAINAYA NASH

There are 16 public high schools in Washington D.C.,  twelve of which have a black population of 75% or higher. What is happening in D.C.’s public school system is happening all over metropolitan cities within the U.S.  This disparity often comes from residential segregation, which is when different groups of people are divided amongst various neighborhoods. In urban cities we see this form of segregation taking place at higher rates in comparison to suburban towns. Families who are often divided into neighborhoods by race face great difficulty when they try to leave these segregated neighborhoods. Minority families face great difficulties when they try to leave these neighborhoods because if they coexist within predominantly white neighborhoods they also coexist within predominantly white  schools. By keeping minority groups out of white neighborhoods through systematic biases, minorities are kept from attending these schools.

Author Emily Leib wrote an article titled  “How Segregated Schools Bought Segregated Cities” where she argues that “for white homeowners Jim Crow schools were chess pieces to prevent black migration.”  One tactic that Leib mentions is redlining, the act of  denying someone the right to buy a house because they currently live in a “poor” area. This tactic has been deemed illegal but it is still used to keep minority families from infiltrating white neighborhoods. Another tactic is exclusionary zoning which is when white families fight to ensure that affordable housing is unaccessible in their neighborhood. These tactics support the ideals that Jim Crow was built upon and the ideals that so many people fought to tear down.

Jim Crow laws inflicted inequality within schools that were in minority communities. When Jim Crow laws were enforced white schools received more resources, funding, and better facilities compared to “colored” schools. Today this is still the case. Schools that are in predominantly white neighborhoods receive a better quality education than students in minority neighborhoods. Schools that have a high percentage of minority students tend to have fewer math, science, and college prep courses available.

Author, Leah Binkovitz is a reporter that covers different educational issues that tend to get overlooked by the public. She shares Leib’s views on residential segregation and education. In Binkovitz article,  “How Parents Choices about Schools Drive Segregation,” she claims that white Americans have control over where minority groups live through their income and socioeconomic status. But the reason why some white families fight to keep minority families out of their neighborhoods is because they believe that minority students will decrease the value of their schools. The white families that choose to segregate themselves determine the quality of a school based on its geodemographic and not its academic standing.

Segregation in public schools is becoming a disparity in choice. Most minority families do not have a say in what school their child attends because of zoning; which is a process that determines what school a child has to attend based on where they live, and the inability to afford to send them to a private school. White families that do not approve of their neighborhood schools often resort to sending their child to a private school. In a study by the Kinder Institute’s Houston Education Research Consortium in 2016, white families were surveyed  in Houston, Texas. Researchers  intended to discover how parents decided what school would be best for their child. In their findings, it was revealed that 20 percent of parents said that they would not send their child to a school if it was 60 percent  black, while only eight percent  said that they would not send their child to a school if it was 60 percent Hispanic. This is the reason why the difference in these numbers are so drastic is because the black community is portrayed as destructive and juvenile compared to people of  other races or ethnicities. But these stereotypes do not justify minority students being forced to attend schools that are marginalized, while white students get to control the environment that their schools are in.  

    Having integrated schools comes with many pros. In an article titled , “The Continued Nexus Between School and Residential Segregation,” authors Paul Ong, a professor at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Jordan Rickles, a researcher at American Institutes for Research, discuss some of the pros of an integrated school. In an integrated school the students are more likely to attend college, receive higher test scores, and have better employment outcomes. Another positive social outcome that comes from integrated schools is the ability to expose children to other races at an early age. Children that interact with other races at an early age are more confident in working in diverse settings when they are adults. The outcomes of having integrated schools can have a great impact on marginalized communities and can break down the barriers that racial discrimination was built on.

    In order to see a change in the public school system, first there has to be policies made to help fight against residential segregation. Author, Erica Frankenberg a professor at the Pennsylvania State University wrote an article titled  “The role of residential segregation in contemporary school segregation” where she discusses the impact that school and residential policies have had on residential segregation and education. In her article she discusses how policies such as the Fair Housing Act of 1968 failed to provide marginalized communities with access to affordable housing in segregated neighborhoods . If the government does not ensure that acts such as this one are enforced in all communities then we will remain stagnant and the number of schools that are currently integrated will continue to decrease. Segregation in schools is like an ongoing cycle: a school becomes racially integrated, more minorities begin to attend the school, and as a result white children begin to leave the school to attend better schools. This ongoing cycle is detrimental, but I expected the hardest part to be integrating the schools not also maintaining the diversity in the school. Maintaining diversity in public schools, would not be a problem if school districts take initiative and fight to desegregate schools by implementing different policies instead of allowing marginalized communities to continue to be racially discriminated against and kept out of predominately white communities.

The government is not the only group to be held accountable in this situation,

but so is the society that allows this practice to continue. If people of every race approach residential segregation and education with a sociological perspective then we too can help put an end to this.  People can make a change by not discriminating against their neighborhood schools and sending their children to these schools despite the demographics. This will support diversity and prove that no child deserves a better education than the next.  We must continue the fight that was started with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, to ensure that all children receive a quality education with equal accessibility to the resources that are needed to learn.

All photos are from Creative Commons

Jenna CaldwellComment