The Integration Report, issue 10

June 9, 2008

This edition of TIR recognizes the historical contribution of Zelma Henderson, the last surviving plaintiff from the lawsuit filed against the Topeka Board of Education that was consolidated into the larger 1954 Brown case. Building on many years of deliberate legal planning and strategy, Brown v. Board of Education struck down the “separate but equal” rationalization for segregation. Henderson died last week at the age of 88, but her courageous battle against racial prejudice and segregation continues.

The landmark Brown case spanned five states and included more than 200 plaintiffs.1 Zelma Henderson was a member of a group of Kansas parents who brought suit against the Topeka School Board. Her commitment to desegregation focused on the importance of providing white and black children with the opportunity to learn from one another.2 Her own desegregated schooling experiences in a rural Kansas farming community deeply influenced her views on integration. In a 2001 interview, Ms. Henderson commented, “The little children, when they began going to the integrated schools, they got to know one another as just little children and not black and white.”3 Her simple justification of the benefits of desegregation the Brown case argued for is supported by psychological research. Studies have shown that early opportunities for intergroup contact in diverse educational settings have important implications for breaking cyclical patterns of stereotyping and prejudice.4 Racially integrated schools also promote critical thinking skills, cross racial friendships and produce students who are more likely to live and work in integrated settings as adults.5

Despite recent setbacks in the fight to uphold the promise of Brown in our nation’s schools, new evidence from a broad community survey in Louisville, Kentucky suggests that Ms. Henderson’s dream of providing children with integrated educational opportunities lives on. Previous issues of TIR have outlined the merged Jefferson County/Louisville school system’s struggle to maintain a voluntary integration plan in the face of a Supreme Court ruling (for the Seattle/Louisville case) that restricts the use of race in student assignment (see TIR issue 3 and issue 4). Over the past year, part of Jefferson County school officials’ strategy has been to solicit extensive community feedback in the development of a new student assignment plan. Findings from a recent University of Kentucky survey based on interviews with 654 elementary school parents, indicate that nearly nine out of ten parents support continued efforts to maintain racially diverse learning environments in Jefferson County Schools.6 More than 90% of parents polled expressed a desire for more magnet opportunities, and indicated that they were willing to have their children leave their neighborhood to attend them.7 In response to the overwhelming support from the community, the Jefferson County School Board unanimously approved a new student assignment plan on May 28, 2008. The final plan is largely in keeping with the description of the temporary plan provided in TIR issue 3, assigning students to schools from contiguous geographic areas comprised of certain demographic characteristics – including racial/ethnic composition, and income and education levels.8

The Louisville/Jefferson County school system continues to model the possibilities of successful metropolitan integration policies. Widespread initial resistance at the outset of the 1975 desegregation plan, including community protests, KKK demonstrations and school violence, gave way to a longstanding, nearly universal commitment to voluntary integration strategies.9 Louisville has continually reaffirmed that commitment, even in the face of today’s daunting legal and political climate. This current issue of TIR, taken together with our previous issue’s analysis of District Court Judge Donald’s decision to enforce the goals of Shelby County, Tennessee’s desegregation plan, provides two stories of hope in the ongoing battle for true educational equality.

For next time…
Louisville/Jefferson County schools have consistently been a topical focus of prior TIR editions. In an effort to look more closely at the other school district involved in the June 2007 Seattle/Louisville decision, the next issue of TIR will examine student enrollment trends and community reactions in Seattle nearly one year after the Supreme Court ruling.

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
The Integration Report

1 From Brown v. Board of Education: About the Case, Retrieved from on May 27, 2008.
2 Hollingsworth, Barbara (14 April, 2008). Last Topeka Brown Plaintiff Dies. The Capital-Journal. Retrieved from on May 28, 2008.
3 Ibid.
4 Allport, Gordon (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Hawley, Willis (2007). Designing DLOs: Maximizing the Benefits of Diverse Learning Opportunities. In Frankenberg and Orfield, eds. Lessons in Integration: Realizing the Promise of Racial Diversity in American Schools. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
5 “Common Core of Data,” figures retrieved from on May 14, 2008..
6 Kenning, Chris (15 April 2008). “Poll Tracks Parents’ Preferences for Maintaining Diversity: Jefferson Buoyed as District Crafts Plan.” Courier-Journal. Retrieved from on May 27, 2008.
7 Ibid.
8 Jefferson County Public Schools’ Web site, at
9 For a detailed look at desegregation in Louisville, visit the following section on the local paper’s Web site at


Click to navigate to desired section.

News Summary

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.

In wake of ruling, FWCS maintains commitment to racial balance
A community member challenges the Fort Wayne Community School
District’s use of funding for voluntary integration.

JCPS adopts new assignment plan
The Board of the Jefferson County School District voted Tuesday to approve a student assignment plan that will use race, income and education in assigning children to schools.

Teacher Transfer Policy OK’d
The Jefferson Parish public school system has released a new teacher transfer policy, stemming from its recently approved desegregation order, which places responsibility for staffing decisions in the hands of the superintendent’s office rather than the teachers’ union.

Nassif receives school plan
The U.S. Justice Department has given its preliminary OK to a plan that calls for the possible closure and consolidation of some schools in St. Landry Parish to resolve a decades-old desegregation case.

District will develop its own school plan: Proposed consolidation, closure angers residents
A St. Landry Parish School Board member said Tuesday the board will come up with its own reorganization plan to desegregate the school system.”We are going to work on an alternative plan,” said Marx “Sonny” Budden, who represents a district that spans the northern edge of St. Landry Parish.

The Choice Is Yours program increases students’ options. Does it increase the chance of students’ success?
The Choice Is Yours (CIY) program, which allows low-income Minneapolis parents to choose suburban schools for their children, has existed since the 2001-02 school year and is highly popular among program parents.

Saving Nashville schools
Metro Nashville schools examine if it has the will and wherewithal to make the changes that will revive the faltering system which has lost a large portion of the middle class and suffered as a result.

Expanding magnet schools
Hundreds more of Jefferson County Public Schools children might get a chance to attend magnet schools as part of the new student-assignment plan Superintendent Sheldon Berman will present to the Jefferson County school board.

Judge asks for public opinion on school redistricting
A federal judge is seeking public opinion before he hands down his clarification of court orders issued to the Pitt County Schools.

City schools seek lifting of desegregation order
A federal desegregation order against Franklin’s public schools will be dismissed after nearly 40 years.

No balancing act for Chaska, Chanhassen
The Chaska School District’s Boundary Task Force (Minneapolis-St. Paul) has decided to bypass a plan that would have balanced racial and socio-economic diversity between Chaska High and the new Chanhassen High due to open in 2009.

Desegregation plan did not come easy
Davenport’s desegregation plan stems from a drawn out standoff in the 1970s between the district and the then-Iowa Department of Public Instruction, which resulted in a federal investigation.

Last surviving Brown v. Board plaintiff dies
(Published May 21, 2008)
TOPEKA, Kan. – The last surviving Topeka plaintiff in the Brown v. Board of Education case that led to the landmark ruling outlawing school desegregation has died at 88.

METCO continues under solid funding
For the fifth year in a row, METCO, a voluntary educational desegregation program, has secured a sizeable increase during the Senate budget debate.

Legal limbo keeps letters about year-round schools flying
The state Supreme Court stayed the effect of an appeals court ruling that the district does not need parental consent to send students to year-round schools. A lawsuit that WakeCARES filed in March 2007 has kept the issue in the courts.

Addressing discrimination is focus of school board
Guilford County (North Carolina) school officials will discuss tonight how schools address discrimination on campus. More than 9,500 violations have been reported this year to the school system.

Wake school board will continue year-round battle
After nearly two hours in a closed meeting with its attorney, the Wake County Board of Education decided Tuesday to move forward with its fight for mandatory year-round schools.

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.

Return to top

Additional Resources for School Integration

BuildingChoice Web site **NEW**
This Web site is designed to help implement and maintain public school choice programs. Included are promising practices from a range of programs, tools, and links to many additional resources to support your choice efforts.

Sheff Web site
For more information regarding the Sheff desegregation case in Connecticut, please visit

The School Law Blog
Visit the School Law Blog for an important discussion of news and analysis of legal developments affecting schools, educators, and parents. Mark Walsh has been covering legal issues in education for more than 15 years for Education Week. He writes about school-related cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and in lower courts.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP) have co-produced the 2nd edition of their K-12 school integration manual entitled 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 can be done to promote diversity and address the harms of racial isolation in schools.
To download the manual, visit or
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

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP/PDC) are currently distributing their collaboratively-written manual, Preserving Integration Options for Latino Students, a guide 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 Web site at To contact MALDEF, please visit, or call 213-629-2512.

Return to top

The Integration Report – Staff Members

Editor – Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
Editorial Assistant – Jared Sanchez
Editorial Committee – Erica Frankenberg, Gary Orfield, Laurie Russman
Webmaster – John Khuu

Return to top

Key Terms

Seattle/Louisville case – decided by the Supreme Court in June, 2007, the Seattle/Louisville decision limited the use of race in student assignment plans.

Return to context

Return to top

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.

Logo for The CRP/PDC

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: