De Facto Segregation
This article discusses the history of de facto segregation in America, its consequences and the state of such segregation today. Schools in the 1950s and 1960s were racially segregated mainly because of the neighborhoods where they were located. Those schools situated in mainly white neighborhoods ended up with a majority of white students, and those schools in black neighborhoods were comprised of mainly black students. Since it was widely believed that the education at both schools was not equal, desegregation was attempted, with mixed results.
Keywords Busing; Civil rights; De facto; De jure segregation; Education; Harvard Civil Rights Project; High school; Minority; New York City board of education; Open enrollment; Prejudice; Race; Public schools; Segregation; Voluntary transfer
De facto segregation specifically refers to racial segregation that happens as a matter of fact; that is, because of where a student lives and as a result - goes to school. De facto segregation happens when one minority group lives in a neighborhood with others of that group. Schools these students attend will then be mainly comprised of one minority group ("The Courts and De Facto," 1964).
De facto segregation can also occur when higher income white families attend their zoned neighborhood schools. The student population of these schools will be mainly white. This is also considered to be segregation, since it is presumed that minority groups in other, all-black schools are not getting the same level of education as these white children. Both all-black and all-white de facto segregation is largely looked on in a negative light ("The Courts and De Facto, 1964").
Fifty years ago, de facto segregation was much more prevalent and a more serious problem than it is today. Indeed, in the early 1960s, most elementary schools in the North were completely segregated racially and this was by de facto means. Although there were a few secondary schools in the larger cities at that time that were racially integrated, for the most part there were all-black schools and all-white schools based on the population of students who lived in the surrounding area (Rose, 1964). Most parents and students felt that the education and facilities were not equal.
Areas of segregated housing, for example, are the types of neighborhoods that contributed to the beginnings of de facto school segregation. In these residential areas, the schools were populated with only the minority students who lived there. Even with the best of intentions and a vow to do young students right, the segregation of schools in poorer housing areas can be a difficult situation. Students in these areas can usually never travel to other schools on a daily basis and students who do not live in the poorer area will not want to change schools. For the most part, people tend to believe that schools really can't be adequately segregated unless neighborhoods are integrated first (Levenson, 1965).
The permit system that was implemented during this time simply exacerbated the segregation problem. The relatively few white students living in black neighborhoods were given permits to attend the white school located outside the neighborhoods. Those schools that may not otherwise have been ever racially segregated became so artificially with the creation of these tickets out of the neighborhood school. These students tended to grab the opportunity to go to a white school. Those black students who lived in white neighborhoods were also given these permits and were encouraged to attend the overwhelmingly black school outside their neighborhoods, and felt pressure to do so. Not all black students accepted the invitation to attend a particular school out of their immediate area just because it was a "black" school. Plenty of black families living in areas within the zoned boundaries of a white school district didn't want to attend a black school and were happy where they were - often the school was the reason they had moved to that particular area in the first place. Still, by this type of manipulation of student transfers, schools in the North during the 1960s schools became segregated (Rose, 1964).
Consequences of De Facto Segregation
After the Supreme Court decision of 1954 outlawing segregating students in schools, those against de facto segregation reiterated their feelings that it was harmful and discriminatory, especially for black students. Some naysayers felt that the education system was being manipulated in favor of the white students, and that black students were the ones who were suffering. These students' parents demanded that this type of segregation end so that education would be equal for all students despite where they lived. Schools had to be integrated, they said and deliberate efforts to do so had to be instituted as soon as possible (Rose, 1964).
For the most part, people tend to surround themselves with people who are similar to them socially, economically, and racially (Wichtman, 2007). However, schools and learning tend to blend best when there are students from an assortment of socioeconomic groups and where there is a mix of ethnic diversity. Without this, minority children are racially isolated. Those students who attend desegregated schools benefit from knowing and accepting fellow students from different backgrounds (Jehlen, 2007).
Teachers are the ones most aware of the problems inherent in a racially segregated school. Despite the fact that there are many poor white students and well-off members of minority groups, for the most part those schools that are racially segregated are comprised of students who live in poverty and others are populated with students who don't live in poverty. Teaching the students who come from poorer families is often not an easy job (Jehlen, 2007). The reality is that those students from low-income families cost more to educate. These poorer students often have a limited proficiency in English and sometimes may need extra accommodations across the curriculum areas. Remediation takes both time and money. The schools they attend are usually urban and the financial resources of those schools are rarely that of the suburban schools (Stover, 2007). These students are likely not getting the best possible education.
The students from poverty may not be easy to teach, but researchers have determined that having low-income students in a classroom doesn't affect the grades or the learning of middle-class students. That is, it is inferred that those students who are in the majority will determine the culture of a classroom. This finding points to a diverse classroom and school as being a good thing for all students (Jehlen, 2007). Based on this research, ending all forms of de facto segregation throughout the country should be a goal for the good of all students.
In the past, as school districts sought to solve the problem of de facto segregation, administrators and planners came to realize that most of the approaches being considered meant a change in the basic concept of a neighborhood school (Levenson, 1965). Without deliberate intervention, as long as those neighborhoods were racially segregated, the schools would be too. A big roadblock in attempting to end de facto...
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