The Integration Report, issue 1

January 15, 2008

Welcome to the first issue of The Integration Report, a biweekly update on the status of integration in school districts around the country. The Report seeks to illuminate the complexity of the political and legal landscape in the aftermath of the June 2007 Supreme Court decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. This ruling radically limited the use of race in student assignment policies. Rather than viewing this as the end of racial integration in U.S. public schools, The Report makes it clear that the continued pursuit of integration in our schools is a dynamic issue that becomes more complex.

The Integration Report intends to serve and educate a broad group of education stakeholders, including superintendents, school board members, policy makers, teachers, parents, students and community members on the latest developments in efforts to pursue integration. We hope that you will return to this site and subscribe to our biweekly bulletins for the latest news summaries relating to integration and for in-depth briefings on a wide variety of pertinent topics including:

  • basic strategies to maintain voluntary integration,
  • the harms of racially isolated schools and the benefits of integrated schools,
  • what happens to magnet schools when race-conscious plans are dropped, and
  • updates on demographic changes around the country.

We also recognize that the press often does not cover local decisions accurately or at all, and court rulings often release limited statements of the facts about the cases, so we encourage first hand reports from your communities. Please send those to integrationrept@ucla.edu. Our goal will be to let people across the country know what is happening in this arena and to spur an active discussion of the issues and the possibilities.

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
The Integration Report


Contents

Click to navigate to desired section.


Spotlight on the Courts:
Rulings create confusion and complexity

New developments in integration policy and practice have been constantly occurring. Since June, two lower court rulings in cases illustrate how districts across the country continue to wrestle with the ambiguous nature of the Seattle/Louisville decision. In Los Angeles, the use of race in magnet school admissions in the Los Angeles Unified School District was upheld this past December, due to an existing 1981 state court order to desegregate. Meanwhile in Tucson, Arizona, court action on the constitutionality of race-conscious policies took the form of a judge rushing to terminate the city’s desegregation plan — without holding a hearing on the possible effects of the end of the district’s controlled choice and magnet school policies. In August of 2007, the judge ended the Tucson’s thirty-eight year old plan to integrate.

In school systems across the country, the dueling nature of past court orders and present judicial rulings push school districts in different directions and add to the confusion surrounding the Supreme Court decision. Many districts in the South are still under court order to desegregate and have considerably more leeway in maintaining racial diversity in their school systems using the race-conscious means long mandated by federal courts and the Office for Civil Rights. Unfortunately, shortly after the Seattle/Louisville decision a number of those districts were granted unitary status, limiting their use of desegregation standards for magnet schools and controlled choice plans. This emphasizes the need for more education on the benefits of staying under court order for those districts that still have the opportunity to do so.

Districts across the country continue to grapple with the meaning of the Seattle/Louisville Supreme Court decision. It is of vital importance that education stakeholders pay close attention to this issue as new strategies and rulings lend fresh and deeper meaning to the Seattle/Louisville decision. Given the extensive research documenting the benefits of integration and the harms of segregation (refer to Statement of American Social Scientists of Research on School Desegregation Submitted to US Supreme Court), we believe that the worst result of the court decisions would be the abandonment of desegregation plans – without serious analysis of the available alternatives – and passive acceptance of deepening segregation by race and poverty. Future issues will contain links to important court decisions as they are handed down.

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News Summary

Ruling causes confusion in desegregation cases
This article explores the contradictory nature of past and present desegregation rulings. Varying situations in Shelby County, Tennessee, Tucson, Arizona, and Huntsville, Alabama are spotlighted.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-11-12-desegregation-dilemma_N.htm

Desegregation by Order?
Closing arguments in the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case offered sharply conflicting recommendations to a Superior Court judge who is considering ways to end the racial and social isolation of Hartford schoolchildren.
http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-ctsheff0104.artjan04,0,1990440.story

Admissions policy for LA Unified magnet schools is upheld
Referencing a 1981 court order, a California trial court rules that the consideration of race in Los Angeles Unified’s magnet schools does not violate the state anti-affirmative action amendment.
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd12dec12,1,495484.story

After race ruling, lawmakers try to protect open enrollment
Iowa politicians grapple with changes to a desegregation plan that previously allowed open enrollment based solely on race. Proposed changes would expand the definition of “minority” to include income and disability status.
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080108/NEWS02/801080365

Metco is deemed set for a legal test
Massachusetts State Department of Education defends the legality of an inter-district student transfer program that relies on race when considering transfer options.
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/11/06/metco_is_deemed_set_for_legal_test/

Desegregation Monitoring, Arkansas School Funding Fight end in 2007
Little Rock, Arkansas celebrates the 50th anniversary of school integration as a federal judge releases the school district from desegregation monitoring.
http://www.todaysthv.com/news/news.aspx?storyid=58193

Decatur school system released from court supervision after 38 years
U.S. District Judge rules that the Georgia school district has achieved “unitary status” and “fully and satisfactorily complied with the Court’s desegregation orders,” which stemmed from a 1969 lawsuit.
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2007/12/17/decatur_1218_web.html

Federal judge ends desegregation order for Vestavia Hills
A federal judge granted a request by the Alabama school district to end a longstanding desegregation order under which the school system has bused in students from a designated portion of the Oxmoor Valley.
http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2007/12/federal_judge_ends_desegregati.html

Cincinnati Public Schools to end 32-year-old integration policy
The Cincinnati school board votes to end a magnet school integration policy by removing race as a factor in enrollment decisions.
http://www.nsba.org/site/doc_cosa.asp?TRACKID=&VID=50&CID=448&DID=42016

Higher Education and the Civil Rights Movement
A new book, Higher Education and the Civil Rights Movement: White Supremacy, Black Southerners and College Campuses (University Press of Florida) goes beyond the James Meredith story and explores more accounts of the desegregation of higher education. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/01/02/wallenstein

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Resources for School Integration

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP/PDC) announce the release of Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration; A Manual for Parents, Educators and Advocates. The Manual addresses the practical questions of what parents, advocates and educators can now do to promote diversity and address the harms of racial isolation in their schools. The seven-chapter guide includes:

  • The history of court-ordered desegregation efforts;
  • The causes, patterns and devastating impact of the rapid resegregation currently occurring in America’s public schools;
  • A comprehensive discussion of many demonstrated benefits of racially integrated schools and the harms of racially isolated schools;
  • A detailed review of the Supreme Court’s Parents Involved decision;
  • Brief description of the common methods of student assignment;
  • Case studies of school districts with widely discussed approaches towards promoting high quality, inclusive schools.

This is a critical time on the ground, as communities and school districts seek to move forward after the June 2007 Seattle/Louisville decision. The Manual provides accurate and up-to-date information and a step-by-step guide for how you can strengthen diversity and expand opportunity in your schools.

Download the manual (in PDF format) directly at http://naacpldf.org/content/pdf/voluntary/Still_Looking_to_the_Future_Voluntary_K-12_School_Integration;_A_Manual_for_Parents,_Educators_and_Advocates.pdf.

For additional information, please visit LDF’s School Integration website at www.naacpldf.org or the CRP/PDC’S website at www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu.

To request hard copies or CDs of the manual and supplemental materials, please send an e-mail with your contact information and the number of copies requested to manual@naacpldf.org.

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Upcoming Events

January 18, 2008
Louisville Law Review Symposium
http://php.louisville.edu/news/news.php?news=1067
Law symposium to examine impact of recent Supreme Court decisions on school desegregation, University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

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Looking Ahead

Further proof of the ever-changing nature of the integration issue comes with an ironic historical twist. A forthcoming report from The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (a link to the report will be provided in an upcoming issue) finds that rural areas and towns in the United States have become the most integrated school districts, while large cities and their surrounding suburbs are the most segregated. Places that put forth the strongest initial resistance to desegregation now boast the most integrated student bodies.

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Key Terms

Controlled choice – student assignment plans that attempt to provide choice to parents in a manner that continues to promote racial integration. Controlled choice plans usually replace neighborhood attendance districts with larger zones.

Court order to desegregate – In the years following the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, many school districts, particularly in the South, were placed under federal court order to desegregate. Some districts remain under those older court orders today.

Magnet school – created during the early days of desegregation, magnets are public schools offering a specialized curriculum to a student body that purports to represent the diversity of the community. Magnet schools have traditionally used race-conscious admissions policies to ensure adequate representation of all student groups.

Unitary status – a school district can be declared unitary once it has shown good faith in eliminating all vestiges of its previously segregated, or dual, system.

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The Integration Report is produced by the Initiative on School Integration at The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, and is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute.

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