We approach the Martin Luther King holiday and the one-year anniversary of the Obama inauguration – a year in which the new administration made little explicit commitment to combating racial isolation in American education – by examining the considerable ways in which the federal government might instead promote integration as an important strategy for bringing about racial equity in our nation’s schools. This issue of The Integration Report focuses specifically on the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education, an agency with significant potential to influence education and civil rights policy.1 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 lends OCR its authority, and its purpose, “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.”2 What follows is a summary of the historical evolution of this government agency, along with an involved discussion of the tools and structures embedded in OCR that may further the civil rights agenda in education.

History and Structure of OCR

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination on the basis of race and national origin in any institution receiving federal funds. It grants sweeping enforcement authority to an evolving array of government agencies, including the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office for Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) and OCR, first located within HEW and later in the Department of Education. Using a system of complaint investigations, compliance reviews, guidelines, regulations and enforcement proceedings, HEW – and in 1967, an offshoot of the department christened the Office for Civil Rights – dramatically reshaped the federal government’s role in school desegregation. In the latter half of the 1960s, OCR disseminated firm regulations, later backed by the courts, requiring desegregation and warning school districts against the use of token integration strategies.3 On the basis of those regulations, HEW and OCR brought roughly 600 proceedings against segregated school systems between 1965 and 1970, in addition to terminating federal funds in 200 southern districts.4 Given the concurrent passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which funneled large sums of federal money to under-resourced districts, termination of federal funding amounted to a considerable threat to school systems.5

OCR efforts were also aided and preceded by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorized the Attorney General to initiate or intervene in school desegregation cases. For the first few years of their existence, until President Nixon sharply reversed policy,6 the two agencies worked alongside one another to enforce school desegregation in the South. The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division complemented the administrative actions of OCR and HEW by bringing lawsuits against school systems.7 As a result of these concerted efforts, by 1970, southern schools were the most integrated in the country.

The years between 1965 and 1970 represent the peak of the OCR and the DOJ Civil Rights Division’s enforcement of desegregation to date.8 In a changing political atmosphere, the two agencies became disconnected, eroding concerted efforts to combat school district violations. Presidential administrations, both conservative and liberal, helped shift the focus of OCR and the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division. In 1980, HEW was divided into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. The new Department of Education came under immediate fire from conservative groups opposed to a perceived expansion of the federal government into education, generally regarded as a state and local affair.9 The Education Department survived the Reagan-era uproar and, in fact, took perhaps the most concrete steps to expand the federal role in education with the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) under the administration of George W. Bush.

While the government may have charted new educational territory with NCLB under Bush II, OCR actions favorable to the pursuit of racial integration were brought to a virtual standstill.10 In fact, the agency took several concrete steps to discourage integration. For example, in the wake of the 2007 Parents Involved decision,11 OCR issued a “Dear Colleague” letter misinterpreting the court decision as antithetical to the very goal of integrated education, and warned districts against the pursuit of any type of voluntary, race-conscious student assignment strategies.12 The goal of racially integrated education, according to the Bush-era Education Department, was to be realized without direct consideration of race. These conditions, along with a similar and perhaps more severe set of circumstances in evidence at the Justice Department,13 magnify the latent potential of OCR and other civil rights agencies under a more supportive President and Secretary of Education.

In a significant departure from the previous administration, Obama’s OCR has recently signaled a willingness to move towards a more affirmative stance on educational inequalities. Current Education Department rhetoric speaks of infusing civil rights principles into many different aspects of education policy, including priorities in grant making, support for magnet schools, and describing avenues for voluntary integration under the PICS decision.14 This is a critical shift away from the posture against civil rights taken by the Department of Education and OCR under previous administrations. Ample room remains for taking strong measures to advance the goal of racially integrated education, but at this juncture, under new agency leadership, there is reason to be hopeful that many of the strategies listed below may be acted upon.

OCR has at its disposal a number of important tools to address the persistent issue of racial isolation in American schools. Utilizing these tools is critically important given the increasing number of students of color in the nation’s schools. The same combination of investigation, compliance review, guidance, technical assistance and enforcement used during the agency’s most active days in the ë60s and ë70s is still viable. OCR also conducts biennial surveys of school districts across the country regarding civil rights compliance issues. The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) provides information on enrollment trends and educational services (like access to Gifted and Talented or AP classes, and figures on Special Education and discipline) disaggregated by race, national origin, sex, disability status and English proficiency.15 The data, which is available on the web for the years 2000, 2004 and 2006 (http://ocrdata.ed.gov/), is a resource for agency enforcement and compliance, as well as a tool for policymakers and researchers. OCR is in the process of adding new civil rights data dimensions to the survey, including access to advanced science and mathematics courses, International Baccalaureate programs, SAT and ACT participation, algebra performance, retention, incidents of harassment and bullying, restraints and seclusion, teacher quality, and school finances. Yet other recent changes, disseminated and approved by the Department under the outgoing Bush administration, were made to the data collection. Specifically, a new system of racial/ethnic identification is being proposed similar to that employed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Agency (EEOA), one which may ultimately present a confusing and ambiguous portrait of demographic realities in school districts. Altering the process for collecting racial/ethnic information four decades into the biennial survey will also make it very difficult to continue long-term analyses of civil rights conditions.16 Still, the data collection process, along with compliance reviews, guidance and regulations, remain important means for monitoring and enforcing civil rights protections in schools around the country.

Structurally, the OCR consists of a federal office at the U.S. Department of Education, along with twelve regional centers around the country. Regional OCR centers are responsible for handling complaints and opening compliance reviews in an effort to address reports of discrimination.17 Any interested party who believes a federally-funded institution is discriminating against a person or group on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age may file a complaint.18 These grievance letters describing discrimination by educational authorities can trigger a serious investigation. Because Title VI grants the Education Department broad authority to define nondiscrimination requirements and to cut-off of federal funds if a serious violation is not remedied, school authorities may agree to address an infringement if OCR investigates.19 The regional staff and equity centers also offer technical assistance to help school districts develop strategies to voluntarily comply with federal civil rights law.

OCR moving forward: Reclaiming and prioritizing school integration

Given what we know about the history and structure of OCR, what steps might the agency take to place more emphasis on combating racial isolation today? TIR outlines several different avenues that would help revive OCR’s role as a leader in the effort to secure quality, integrated education for all students and, in so doing, ensure vigorous enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • Strong leadership. OCR should declare in public appearances and in guidance distributed to school districts around the country its unequivocal support for the goal of racially integrated education. Further, OCR should deepen relationships with civil rights organizations, advocates and researchers in an effort to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote equity and racial integration in schools.
  • Guidance. The agency should issue guidance outlining its position on a number of issues pertinent to promoting integration. These include:
    • Guidance defining integration in a multiracial society, using the 1973 Keyes decision to focus on the growing isolation of Latino students. The Keyes case, involving Denver Public Schools, specifically recognized Latino students’ rights to desegregation and became the first major Supreme Court school desegregation case dealing with a district outside the South.20 Many school districts around the country have a growing population of Latino students. How should desegregation proceed in a school system with equal shares of Black, Latino and white students? In an era of changing demographics, new definitions of what integration means are sorely needed.
    • Guidance recognizing the significance of school zoning policies and what is – and is not – permissible during redistricting. The aforementioned Keyes decision also decreed school districts bore responsibility for policies that exacerbated segregation, including constructing schools in racially isolated neighborhoods and drawing attendance lines in a segregating manner.21 More recently, the controlling opinion in PICS expressly allowed for the crafting of attendance zones to facilitate racial diversity.22 New guidance would outline the parameters of these decisions, emphasizing the affirmative goal of drawing lines and siting new schools in a manner that fosters integration, and warning against illegal actions performing the opposite function.
    • Guidance underscoring the right to a bilingual education under the Lau remedies.23 Rapidly rising numbers of students speaking English as a Second Language make access to bilingual education a key element in securing educational civil rights. Restrictive language policies in California, Arizona and Massachusetts represent a concerning push towards English Only/English Immersion classrooms and stand in apparent contradiction to earlier OCR guidance on the issue.24
    • Guidance on charter schools and civil rights policy. Given the Education Department’s recent and strong promotion of charter programs, OCR should restore earlier charter school guidance – outlining basic civil rights considerations in admissions and enrollment – regarding charter schools and equity requirements. It should also use data to monitor access and integration for charter school students, in addition to overseeing charters’ impact on existing court-ordered, voluntary, or 441B desegregation plans.
    • Rescinding previous guidance regarding voluntary integration and NCLB transfers. In the case of voluntary school integration policies, a “Dear Colleague” letter (mentioned previously) overzealously interpreted the limitations placed on voluntary integration under PICS. It should be clarified as soon as possible in an effort to affirm integration efforts. The latter guidance, dealing with NCLB’s transfer provision, in effect allows NCLB to trump voluntary integration plans, but at the same time advises school districts under desegregation orders to seek the advice of the courts before proceeding with transfers.25 This guidance obviously does very little to illuminate the tension between desegregation programs and NCLB transfers, an oversight that should be quickly reconciled by the Education Department and OCR.
  • Coordinate with and assist the Department of Justice in its review and evaluation of school districts still under court order. OCR should renegotiate and update agreements if violations still exist in districts. Roughly 200 desegregation cases, heavily concentrated in the South, remain on the Civil Rights Division’s docket and provide opportunities for furthering equity and integration.26 A comprehensive and up-to-date definition of unitary status, based on the 1968 Green factors,27 is also necessary.
  • Develop a strategic plan for initiating agency investigations into civil rights violations. In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 decision in Alexander v. Sandoval, which prevented individuals from bringing a private lawsuit claiming disparate impact under Title VI,28 government agencies remain the only venue capable of pursuing assertions of disparate impact. OCR has an extensive structure in place to handle complaints brought to its attention by the public, but should also adopt a proactive stance in investigating civil rights violations under Title VI. OCR’s civil rights data can provide insight into numerous arenas of possible disparate impact, including Special Education and Gifted and Talented programs, student discipline, graduation rates, ability grouping and access to highly qualified teachers. Given the array of potential and existing disparities, OCR should develop a comprehensive strategy for tackling violations, replete with oversight and monitoring. For example, if the agency uncovers examples of disparate impact in discipline policies around the country, what broad steps might it require of school districts to correct the disparities? How would it subsequently monitor progress? Given the wide-ranging possibilities for OCR action on issues of disparate impact, these questions should be quickly addressed. Furthermore, a revival of the formerly close relationship between OCR and DOJ is in order, since the Coordination and Review Section in the Department of Justice has broad authority over Title VI compliance and may be able to assist OCR efforts.
  • Provide comprehensive technical assistance to help school districts implement strategies for racial diversity. The Technical Assistance Student Assignment Plans (TASAP) grants, which recently funded eleven school districts for a two-year commitment to promoting integration through student assignment policies, is a possible avenue for expansion. Magnet schools, historically established to prevent racial isolation, should be promoted by OCR and fortified with technical assistance. OCR might consider publishing a manual highlighting best practices for creating successfully integrated magnet programs.
  • Help insert educational equity issues into larger conversations regarding regional approaches to housing, schools, transportation, land use and urban planning. OCR should consider convening stakeholders to discuss school integration as it relates to the regional agenda. Such a strategy requires cooperation and collaboration between a variety of government agencies, relationships that should be generally fostered and encouraged by the current administration. In terms of collaboration within agencies, the housing and school sections of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division should coordinate litigation strategies. These two sections were unified under the Carter Administration – though the relationship faltered after Reagan took office – and required consideration of school segregation issues during the process of siting subsidized housing.

In conclusion, OCR’s power to influence and further the goal of racially integrated education should not be underestimated. If fully developed, the agency has a broad array of tools at hand that could effect substantive changes in the status quo. With increasing racial and ethnic diversity, new legal obstacles, and widespread patterns of segregation and resegregation, the agency’s failure to act affirmatively will have grave consequences for generations of American schoolchildren.

For next time…
The next issue of The Integration Report will highlight findings from an upcoming report on segregation in charter schools.

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
The Integration Report

The editor would like to thank Chinh Q. Le and Dan Losen for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this TIR, though the analysis presented here solely reflects the views of the editor and editorial committee.

1 Of course, other government departments and agencies influence the federal civil rights agenda in important ways, but with the exception of the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, they were beyond the scope of this discussion.
2 “Overview of the Agency” OCR Web site, Retrieved on December 2, 2009 from http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.
3 Le, C.Q., (forthcoming 2010). Advancing the Integration Agenda under the Obama Administration, in Frankenberg. E. & Debray-Pelot, L. (Eds). Looking to the Future: Legal and Policy Options for Racially Integrated Education in the South and the Nation. Le, C.Q. (forthcoming 2010). Racially Integrated Education and the Role of the Federal Government, 88 N.C. L. Rev. __. Epperson, L. (2008). Undercover Power: Examining the Role of the Executive Branch in Determining the Meaning and Scope of School Integration Jurisprudence. Berkeley J. Afr-Am. L. & Pol’y 146.
4 Le, C.Q. (forthcoming 2010). Racially Integrated Education and the Role of the Federal Government, 88 N.C. L. Rev. __.
5 Epperson, L. (2008). Undercover Power: Examining the Role of the Executive Branch in Determining the Meaning and Scope of School Integration Jurisprudence. Berkeley J. Afr-Am. L. & Pol’y 146.
6 OCR and the Civil Rights Division cooperated more modestly under the Carter Administration, though agency actions were limited by Congress. See Orfield, G. (2000). Schools more separate: Consequences of a decade of resegregation. Rethinking Schools, vol. 16, no. 1.
7 Le, C.Q., “Racially Integrated Education and the Role of the Federal Government.”
8 Ibid.
9 Rampp, L.C., Guffey, J. & Kidd, M. (1998). An Administrative History of the Creation of the U.S. Department of Education, May 1980: The Federal Role in Education Prior to and after the May 1980 Implementation Plan Creating the U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved on December 15, 2009 from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/17/1b/1f.pdf.
10 Le, C.Q., “Racially Integrated Education and the Role of the Federal Government.”
11 Parents Involved in Community. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (U.S. 2007) was a Supreme Court case limiting the use of race in voluntary school integration efforts.
12 Ibid.
13 For further discussion of the upheaval in Bush’s Department of Justice, see an October 2009 report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “U.S. Department of Justice: Information on Employment Litigation, Housing and Civil Enforcement, Voting, Special Litigations’ Section Enforcement Efforts from Fiscal Years 2001 through 2007.” Retrieved on January 5, 2010 from http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1075.pdf.
14 This fall, ED awarded TASAP grants to 11 school districts across the country, including Boston Public Schools, St. Paul Public Schools, Orange County Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools.
15 Information available at the CRDC’s Web site at http://ocrdata.ed.gov/downloads/About_the_data_v3-cb.doc.
16 Lee, Chungmei (2006). Data proposals threaten education and civil rights accountability. Cambridge: Harvard Civil Rights Project. Retrieved on December 15, 2009 from http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/news/2006/naep.pdf.
17 Information available on ED’s OCR website under “About OCR.” http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.
18 Ibid.
19 The same authority usually means OCR guidance is taken seriously.
20 Lee, Chungmei (2006). Denver Public Schools: Resegregation, Latino Style. Cambridge: Harvard Civil Rights Project. Retrieved 12.15.09 at http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/Denver_Reseg.pdf.
21 Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1, 413 U.S. 189, 1973; Orfield, G. & Eaton, S. (1996). Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: The New Press.
22 Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007).
23 Named for the Supreme Court case Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974) holding that the failure to provide English language instruction, or other appropriate instructional programs, to English Language Learners amounted to a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A more recent Supreme Court case, Horne v Flores (Nos. 08-289 and 08-294) 516 F. 3d 1140 (2009), signified a setback for ELL instruction and funding, underscoring the need for more affirmative guidance from OCR.
24 For more information, see Frankenberg, E. & Siegel-Hawley, G. (2009). “Equity Overlooked: Charter Schools and Civil Rights Policy,” at http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/equity-overlooked-report-2009.pdf.
25 A copy of the “Dear Colleague” letter is available at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-20090108.pdf.
26 Le, C.Q., “Racially Integrated Education and the Role of the Federal Government.”
27 The Green factors, titled after the 1968 Supreme Court case, Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (391 U.S. 430) (1968), are a set of standards for measuring progress towards desegregation. They include student assignment, faculty and staff assignment, extracurricular activities and transportation.
28 Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001). Disparate impact refers to a practice that is non-discriminatory on its surface but disproportionately affects a group of individuals in a harmful manner.


Click to navigate to desired section.

News Summary

Please send us your news
Please send reports, documents, court decisions, comments or suggestions for topics to: The Integration Report, Editor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, at integrationrept@ucla.edu.

Board gives initial approval to new elementary, middle school attendance zones
Hundreds of Bluffton students could move to new elementary and middle schools next year under a rezoning plan given unanimous, initial approval by the Beaufort County Board of Education (South Carolina) on Tuesday. The federal Office for Civil Rights, however, recently asked the district to reexamine the approved boundaries and develop options that might improve ethnic balance.

Wake school board votes to end mandatory year-round
The Wake County school board voted 5-4 today to end mandatory year-round school assignments in the 2010-11 school year. Also as part of the resolution ending mandatory year-round schedules, the board said they would no longer use diversity as a factor in determining which applicants are accepted into year-round schools. But critics complained that ending mandatory year-round and not using diversity in filling year-round schools would have unintended consequences. They also complained about how the resolution was added to the agenda today without prior notice.

Schools to figure in commissioners’ races
Wake County school issues and next year’s county commissioners’ races are about to be inextricably linked. Joe Ciulla, a leader of the Wake Schools Community Alliance, said the parent group plans to be involved in next year’s election to back commissioners who will help the new school board majority. The WSCA helped elect four new school board members this year who are part of a new majority that backs neighborhood schools and opposes mandatory year-round schools and the district’s diversity policy. The Great Schools in Wake Coalition formed this week to try to deter the new board from following up on campaign pledges to end the socioeconomic diversity policy. The group says its mission is to “provide accurate information to educate the public about policy initiatives that would impact the quality of education … and to advocate for policies that improve public education in Wake County.”

Perdue backs maintaining diversity in schools
As Wake County and other school districts across North Carolina shift away from busing students to achieve socio-economic diversity, Gov. Beverly Perdue and other officials fear the districts will become racially segregated.”It’s the most troublesome thing I think that’s happened,” Perdue said of the push toward neighborhood schools from Goldsboro to Charlotte. Perdue acknowledged there’s little she can do to support school diversity because student assignment decisions are up to locally elected school boards and superintendents. “All that I can do is use the bully pulpit (to speak in favor of diversity),” she said. “I don’t believe anyone benefits from a country or state where we write off a certain segment of the population.”

Charter plan criticized for low diversity
Oxford Preparatory Academy charter school supporters are busy gathering grass-roots support in the Chino Valley (California) through house visits and community meetings. Some criticism leveled at the proposed charter school has centered on its level of diversity, though supporters said they are doing much work to make sure it will have a diverse population.

School officials preparing to explore scenarios
Pitt County Schools (North Carolina) officials later this month will begin preparing exploratory scenarios that will help them finalize student assignment changes for the 2011-12 school year. The board is expected to approve a new student assignment plan in November. Adding to the complexity of this reassignment is a federal court mediation agreement finalized last year which calls for the inclusion of representatives from the Greenville Parents Association and the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children during reassignment discussions. Both entities sued the school system in 2005 after disputing a redistricting of five Greenville elementary schools to provide racial balance.

Partial-magnet growth on hold
Schools chief dedicated to idea, but funds are short

One of the superintendent’s flagship initiatives to improve Charleston, South Carolina’s schools’ performance and increase student diversity will be put on hold for a year. Five traditional, neighborhood schools opened partial magnet programs this year, which meant they adopted a theme and accepted students from outside their attendance zones. Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley wanted to expand the concept to at least three schools for the 2010-11 school year, but that will be delayed until 2011. McGinley has been adamant about the need to be creative despite the district’s budget woes, but the funding cuts have become so substantial that McGinley said she can’t implement new initiatives at the cost of the district’s core business of instruction.

Schools seeking applicants
About 20 Schools of Choice programs started in 2003 as a way to integrate Lafayette, Louisiana schools. Schools of Choice were created as the parish’s “magnet” approach to attracting diverse populations to racially identifiable schools. The parish’s 41-year-old desegregation case ended in 2004, a year after the program was initiated, when the system gained unitary status and was freed from federal oversight. All students in the parish, regardless of where they are zoned to attend school, are eligible to apply for programs at Schools of Choice if they meet the requirements.

Jacksonville group wants a vote on creating a new district
Jacksonville, Arkansas residents who want to create their own school district are asking a federal judge to create a process for doing so if the North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special districts are declared desegregated. Jacksonville is currently part of the Pulaski County district.

Federal judge postpones school unitary hearings
A federal judge has postponed the dates for court hearings on whether the North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts have met their desegregation obligations. North Little Rock’s request to be declared unitary and released from years of court supervision will be heard Jan. 25, not Jan. 11. The state employed experts are David J. Armor, a professor of public policy in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University at Fairfax, Va., and Christine Rossell, professor of political science at Boston University.

Attorneys say North Little Rock school district’s desegregation efforts aren’t sufficient
Attorneys for black students say desegregation efforts made by the North Little Rock School District have not been sufficient to release the district from federal court monitoring. In a court filing, the attorneys cited what they call the district’s lack of substantial compliance with its desegregation plan, specifically in the areas of staffing, student discipline, special education and student achievement.

Race factor cited after removal of Fayette County superintendent
Fayette County, Tennessee has had its share of racial problems in the past. But after a majority of the school board voted to buy out the contract of the school director, it seemed like deja vu all over again, an African-American school board member said. An unresolved federal school desegregation lawsuit, filed in the 1969-70 school year, is another reason Marandy Wilkerson contends that race was a motivating factor in ousting Myles Wilson, an African American who had been director, or superintendent, of the district’s 10 schools since 2001.

Court order lifted, schools still struggle in public eye
The end of a 15-year-old court order governing the Natchez, Mississippi public schools was supposed to mean a fresh start, but the story of the schools this decade may have more to do with perception than performance. In 2003 a judge said the desegregation sought after in the 1989 order had been achieved. The only major change as a result of the district’s newfound freedom came in 2005 when the grade levels were reorganized. Geographic lines that previously determined where students went to primary and elementary school were done away with and now all students in the same grade attend the same school.

Melancon to discuss agreement between school board and justice department
An agreement was reached between the Evangeline Parish School Board and the U.S. Justice Department that could mean good news for Ville Platte High, which has been at the center of the desegregation case against this parish. Before this agreement, the justice department filed a motion to close Ville Platte High during the case, stating the facility was not equal to other facilities in the parish. The school board then filed a motion seeking unitary status on several factors, stating it had done everything it was asked to do and showed the court good faith in its actions. The agreement would call for the school board to spend an additional $3 million on renovations at Ville Platte High.

Evangeline desegregation update
School board officials in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana are celebrating an early Christmas present after a federal judge had some good news for them concerning their decades old desegregation case. We have been reporting the agreement between the school board and the Justice Department, and now it’s official. Tuesday the Evangeline Parish School Board was granted unitary status on three out of six green factors, and has been given a distinct timeline to finally end this desegregation case, that dates back to the sixties.

Minneapolis schools may ditch desegregation effort
Most suburban districts are mum about what would happen if the city pulls out of their signature program.

The Minneapolis public schools are considering pulling out of a 20-year partnership with 10 west-suburban school districts that was meant to help desegregate the schools. City school officials say the West Metro Education Program (WMEP) is not accomplishing its mission. Earlier this year, Myron Orfield, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Race and Poverty, released a memo that cited state data that show WMEP students of color outperformed students of color in Minneapolis and throughout Minnesota on state tests. For instance, 42 percent of WMEP’S black students were proficient on state exams compared to 21 percent in Minneapolis and 31 percent statewide during 2007-08.

Deseg plan in final phase
U.S. District Court Judge Tucker Melancon has signed off on the last phase of St. Landry Parish’s (Louisiana) more than 44-year-old desegregation suit, which means the end is now in sight. While the school system has been working on meeting the requirements of the desegregation order for years, the current school year was the final and hardest step. To meet the federal requirements, zone lines for all schools were redrawn, schools in Melville and Morrow were closed and four sets of schools were paired, with pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students attending one of the paired schools while children in grades five through eight attended the other. Nassif said the pairings, which aroused a great deal of controversy when they were first announced, have actually worked out very well. He said even some of the harshest critics of the plan are now on board.

State opens transfer door at 17 East Texas campuses
Students at 17 East Texas schools – including four in Longview Independent School District – will be notified by Feb. 1 that they can transfer to other campuses, according to the Texas Education Agency. The agency’s Public Education Grant program lists schools that met two low-performing criteria over the past three years – either 50 percent or fewer of its students passed any section of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in any two years, or the school was rated Academically Unacceptable in the agency’s accountability ratings at least once since 2007. A school chosen by the student’s parent has the authority to either accept or reject the application, but may not use criteria to discriminate. A parent’s choices in schools may be limited by circumstances that might impede desegregation.

In Orange County, schools struggle to help Hispanic kids overcome language barrier
The language of learning gets much tougher in Orange as Hispanic student population rises

Thousands of Hispanic kids represent an enormous challenge for Orange County’s (Florida) public-school educators as the district tries to emerge from a desegregation order that has regulated its day-to-day operations since 1964. That case forced the district to end its dual educational system — one for blacks and one for whites. But school leaders who have spent more than 45 years in the shadow of the federal courts now face an equally complex task to serve another minority group that has grown dramatically during the past two decades.

Eastside supports Option 3, creates balanced high schools
Johnson is one of dozens of eastside parents who approve of the new feeder plan approved by the Plano Independent School District (Texas) board of trustees last week.”It’s encouraging to see that the board did the right thing,” she said. “It’s a great thing for the east side. This new plan is such an improvement [compared] to what the board was looking at in the beginning. Johnson was one voice heard throughout the boundary process that strongly opposed any proposal that would have aligned both Armstrong and Bowman middle schools with Williams High School because doing so would keep the majority of Plano ISD’s Title 1 schools together. “It may not be perfect, but it’s the best solution. This plan creates two balanced and strong high schools,” she said. “The previous plan would have brought the district a desegregation order, and severely, and perhaps permanently, devastated eight eastside elementary schools, two middle schools and Williams High School. We set out to change it, and we did.”

City schools’ new criteria for diversity raise fears
The Chicago public schools’ response to a recent court desegregation ruling — a plan to use students’ social and economic profiles instead of race to achieve classroom diversity — is raising fears that it will undermine the district’s slow and incremental progress on racial diversity. Chicago schools, like the city itself, are hardly a model of racial integration. But a Chicago News Cooperative analysis of school data shows the district has made modest gains in the magnet, gifted, classical and selective-enrollment schools, where, for nearly 30 years, race has been used as an admission criterion. Those advances may be imperiled in the wake of court rulings that have prompted Chicago Public Schools to look for factors other than race when assigning students to such schools.

TUSD out from under desegregation order
After three decades, Tucson’s largest school district is emerging from court-ordered desegregation, giving the district new latitude. On Friday, a judge approved post-unitary status for the Tucson Unified School district, meaning the court will no longer have a say in many district decisions, including efforts to provide equal education to minorities. The post-unitary plan allows students currently attending a school outside their neighborhood to go to another school of their choice, if they meet certain requirements. The plan also allows for alternative methods of discipline, what the district calls “restorative practices” which the district says “allows students who make mistakes to make different choices in a restorative, rather than purely punitive, environment.”

Please send us your news
Please send reports, documents, court decisions, comments or suggestions for topics to: The Integration Report, Editor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, at integrationrept@ucla.edu.

Return to top

Additional Resources for School Integration

**NEW** The links below provide a summary of the convening, “Reaffirming the Role of School Integration in K-12 Education Policy” at Howard University School of Law, Friday, November 13, 2009

Past featured resources can be found in the Resources section of the TIR Web site.

Return to top

Upcoming Event

Lessons from Little Rock author to speak at Civic Center Library in Alhambra, California
In 1957, Terrence J. Roberts arrived at his first day of class at Little Rock Central High School. He and eight other African-American students, in the process of integrating the school, were met by a hostile crowd and the National Guard. Learn more about this pivotal moment in U.S. history from the source as Dr. Roberts, now an Equitable Practices Consultant and a member of the “Little Rock 9,” shares his experiences at 7 P.M. Feb. 2 in the Civic Center Library Community Room. This program is a rare opportunity to gain an understanding of history directly from a source who lived the moment. Dr. Roberts will also discuss his new book, Lessons from Little Rock, available at the library.

Date: February 2, 2010
Time: 7:00 P.M.
Location: Community Room of the Alhambra Civic Center Library
101 S. First Street, Alhambra, CA 91801
For further information, call: 626-570-3212, ext. 1

Return to top

The Integration Report – Staff Members

Editor: Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
Editorial Committee: Erica Frankenberg, Gary Orfield, Laurie Russman
Webmaster: John Khuu

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