The Integration Report, issue 3

February 11, 2008

The previous issue of The Integration Report focused on the importance of maintaining desegregation plans in light of the June 2007 Seattle/Louisville decision that limited the use of race in student assignment plans. One of the two school districts involved in that case, Jefferson County, KY, released a proposal for a temporary assignment plan last week that seeks to preserve the school system’s racial diversity. Jefferson County, a metropolitan district that includes the city of Louisville, provides a possible model for other districts looking for strategies to sustain racial integration in their schools.

The Jefferson County school district recently outlined system-wide goals that will guide current and future student assignments. These goals include: diversity, quality, choice, predictability, stability, and equity.1 Using geography instead of race, school officials grouped clusters of elementary schools together and established a school-level guideline of between 15 and 50% of students from certain geographic areas. These targeted residential areas serve students with income and parent education levels below the district average, as well as a racial composition of at least 45% of students of color.2 Importantly, the criteria for defining geographic areas broadens the district’s original conception of diversity to include socio-economic status, educational attainment of parents, and the consideration of all racial categories, instead of the former two-race distinction between African American and white students.

Jefferson County officials considered two alternatives in addition to the plans unveiled last week: a magnet school plan allowing parents total choice, and a return to neighborhood schools also involving uncontrolled choice. After extensive research, the district determined that the magnet plan would be cost prohibitive, take many years to develop and implement, and would not guarantee two of the school system’s goals – equity and diversity.3 The magnet plan would have represented a shift to uncontrolled choice, which, as discussed in the last Report, in contingent upon a parents’ ability to access to information (including information in a family’s native language), transportation and material and cultural resources, none of which are equally available to American families.4

The other option, the implementation of a neighborhood school plan that would assign students to school sites based on geographic proximity, would create capacity issues for one-third of the system’s elementary schools, and would require the reassignment of 45% of the district’s students. The neighborhood schools plan would also not be able to guarantee equity or diversity, since residential segregation in the metropolitan area would fuel the racial and socioeconomic resegregation of schools.5

The lessons from Jefferson County are two-fold: first, there are viable strategies available for districts interested in continuing to pursue racial diversity – though serious analysis of local conditions is necessary, and second, uncontrolled choice in the form of magnet or neighborhood schools will not necessarily produce racially integrated schools. The following section outlines several important ideas to consider for communities and districts interested in designing student assignment plans that meet the Supreme Court’s new guidelines.

First steps to take when designing a new student assignment plan6

  1. Gather information
    • Develop an understanding of your community’s racial and socio-economic demographics, as well as current and former student assignment policies in your district.
    • Research any existing court orders for your district, along with local and state regulations and political structures that may impact your efforts.
  2. Build public support
    • Think about how to take your message to the public. Are there any existing citizens’ committees or other potential partners that are already working with your school district to develop student assignment plans? How could you become involved with them?
    • Establish positive communication with your local media. (Refer to The Opportunity Agenda’s “talking points” in this issue’s Additional Resources.)
  3. Take action
    • Set clear and positive goals (Jefferson County’s goals provide an example).
    • Seek and procure external technical and legal experts, social science researchers, and practitioners from other districts who have similar goals – and financial support from local businesses and foundations.
    • Build and maintain community support with regular surveys of public opinion.

These guidelines are adopted from Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration, Chapter 7 (pp.62-75).

For next time…
Jefferson County, KY offers an important example of one district’s commitment to pursuing the goals of integration. The next issue of The Integration Report will explore additional strategies that school districts are employing to maintain racial diversity.

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
The Integration Report

1 NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund/Civil Rights Project-Projecto Derechos Civiles, Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration, p. 61.
2 Konz, Antoinette. “Temporary desegregation plan approved; school makeup geography-based,” Louisville Courier-Journal, retrieved on 2/8/08 at
3 Superintendent Presents Student Assignment Scenarios, retrieved from on February 4, 2008.
4 Amy Stuart Wells (1991), Choice in Education: Examining the Evidence on Equity, retrieved from ; Fuller, B., R. Elmore & G. Orfield (Eds) Who chooses? Who loses? (NY, Teachers College Press).
5 Ibid.
6 NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund/Civil Rights Project-Proyecto Derechos Civiles (2008), pp. 62-75.


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News Summary

Temporary desegregation plan approved: school makeup geography-based
Deciding it couldn’t afford to wait, the Jefferson County school board has pushed through a temporary desegregation plan for next school year that uses geography instead of race.

Board has tough choices ahead on student assignment plan
As it looks to revise the Seattle School District’s student assignment plan, the Seattle School Board faces some difficult decisions — such as how to keep “school choice” while helping fill chronically under-enrolled schools, and ensuring schools don’t become racially segregated.

Des Moines to examine school diversity ideas
Des Moines school officials, faced with less than a month to either scrap or rewrite a 30-year-old racial desegregation plan, will get their first look this week at three options proposed by the district superintendent.

Legislators should address diversity issue, educators say
Five Iowa school districts were given guidance Wednesday on how to replace racial desegregation policies with diversity plans to control open enrollment, but educators said they would ask legislators to decide whether more schools can create the plans.

Little time, big decision: OK school diversity plan?
Des Moines school board members and residents decide whether to replace a desegregation plan with a “diversity” plan based on a variety of factors and restricting the use of race.

Wichita Board (Kansas) ends 37 years of mandatory busing
The Wichita school board has voted unanimously to stop busing for desegregation, ending 37 years of mandatory busing of students from their neighborhoods to other parts of the city for racial integration.

Busing plan drives school diversity into conversations
As the Wichita school board voted on a proposal to end busing for integration it brought renewed attention to the benefits of classroom diversity.

New schools won’t be nearby if busing ends
If the Wichita school district stops busing students from central-northeast Wichita it is unlikely for a new school be built in the area, which may cause severe overcrowding problems.

Board to discuss progress on meeting desegregation orders
The St. Landry Parish School Board is headed to Lafayette, Louisiana today to discuss progress it has made, if any, in meeting the mandates of desegregation orders.

Judge scolds St. Landry Board over stalled school desegregation progress
Disagreements among St. Landry Parish (Louisiana) School Board members have stalled progress on a nearly 43-year-old desegregation case, a federal judge complained.

Neighborhood school plan in Waukegan (Chicago)
Students in this Chicago suburb would be sent to their nearest elementary and middle school under an initial plan to revert back to a system based of neighborhood schools by the fall of 2009.,5_1_WA24_NEIGHSKOL_S1.article

Rezoning plan rejected
Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice have rejected a plan to shift more than 600 middle school students in the Arlington-Bartlett area near Memphis, TN on the basis that it would work to further racially segregate children.

East Metro Integration District will bus north St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale students through at least July 2009: EMID will transport children through the end of the school year
North St. Paul is ending its participation in the East Metro Integration District (EMID), EMID, but officials plan to bus the school district’s students at least through the end of the 2008-09 school year.

Systems in California and North Carolina see varied results
Several school systems across the United States are using versions of the multiple-criteria integration plan Jefferson County Public Schools has proposed – with mixed results.

Youth summit spawns ideas: less segregation among suggestions
High school students throughout San Jose, CA speak out that segregation is a chief concern among many other issues.

Texas school district replaces race-based transfers with policy based on students’ economic status
School trustees in Beaumont, TX approved on Saturday a transfer policy that replaces race with a policy based on economic status.

School zones rekindling segregation, PTA says
The Richmond City Council of PTAs is leveling charges of class and race elitism against the much-heralded “open enrollment” program that allows parents to send their children to schools outside their designated zones.

Board approves moving 6,464 students
After Wake County school board approved a student reassignment plan that will move 6,824 elementary students to different schools this fall.

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Additional Resources for School Integration

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP/PDC) announce the release of Preserving Integration Options for Latino Students, a manual for parents, advocates and educators interested in promoting diversity and addressing the harms of Latino racial isolation in their schools.
To download the manual or for additional information, please visit CRP/PDF’s website at To contact MALDEF, please visit or call 213-629-2512.

For guidance on establishing positive relationships with your local media, please visit The Opportunity Agenda’s “talking points” at

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP) 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.
To download the manual or for additional information, please visit LDF’s School Integration website at or the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles website at
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

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Upcoming Events

2007-08 Symposium: The School Desegregation Cases and the Uncertain Future of Racial Equality, Ohio State University, Saxbe Auditorium.
For more information, visit or contact Kathleen Clyde via email at

Please send us your news
Please send reports, documents, and decisions from your community to The Integration Report, Editor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, at Include web links if they are available.

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Key Terms

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.

Neighborhood school plan – refers to student assignment plan that relies on a child’s proximity to their nearest school. This assignment method reinforces existing residential segregation, which remains high in many metropolitan areas.

Seattle/Louisville decisionParents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education was decided by the Supreme Court in June, 2007. The decision limited the use of race in student assignment plans.

Student assignment plan – the methods employed by a school district to assign students to individual schools.

Uncontrolled choice – student assignment plans that provide choice to parents in a manner that does not take into account racial or socio-economic integration.

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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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