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Resegregation of American schools is deepening
Adam Doster
Published: Saturday January 26, 2008

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School segregation is not an anachronistic trend, and in the wake of two Supreme Court decisions dismantling both mandated and voluntary integration programs, the problem is deepening.

According to new data released by Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project, about one-sixth of black students and one-ninth of Latino students attend what Orfield calls 'apartheid schools,' institutions that teach at least 99 percent students of color. In urban centers, black and Latino students are twice as likely to attend such schools.

The most segregated schools, according to the report, which documents desegregation trends, are in big cities of the Northeast and Midwest. But even the South, a region that originally integrated most successfully, is beginning to resegregate.

"It's getting to the point of almost absolute segregation in the worst of the segregated cities within one or two percentage points of what the Old South used to be like," says Orfield. "The biggest metro areas are the epicenters of segregation. It's getting worse for both blacks and Latinos, and nothing is being done about it."

Although resegregation has been taking place for some time, Orfield argues that the newest data is worrisome for the degree to which the trend is occurring. It will also be more difficult for districts to address the problem, given the restrictions placed upon them by the courts.

"If you [as a district] are going to ask your lawyer what's the easiest thing to do, it's to just stop trying to do anything," Orfield explains. "That's a recipe for real segregation."

As the Christian Science Monitor reports, "segregated schools tend to be highly correlated with such things as school performance and the ability to attract teachers."

"Once you separate kids spacially from more privileged kids, they tend to not get the same things," says Amy Stuart Wells, an education professor at Columbia University's Teachers College in New York. "And we need to start thinking about how a school that's racially isolated can be preparing students for this global society we live in."

While urban schools remain racially divided, new minority migration into suburbs means there is a chance communities outside of the urban core could remain diverse. The Civil Rights Project report noted that big-city suburbs educate 7.9 million white students along with 2.1 million blacks and 2.9 million Latinos. However, its unlikely that suburbs will remain racially balanced, as many communities are demonstrating emerging segregation patterns similar to those found in cities.

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