Schools In The Nation’s Capital Are Embarrassingly Segregated

Bettmann via Getty Images Even several decades ago, it wasn’t hard for Gary Orfield to convince white parents in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood to send their kids to a racially segregated black school. At the time, his eldest daughter was one of only a handful of white students in her neighborhood elementary school. Most of the school’s students were black and low-income, but Orfield’s daughter had a positive experience. She had good teachers and a dedicated principal. Still, Orfield, now a professor and co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, was invested in increasing the school’s diversity. It’s not that Orfield had a problem with his daughter attending an all-black school. Rather, he knew that integrated schools can have academic and social benefits for black and white students. Orfield decided to organize a group of local white parents around the issue. He sent them notices about the school’s highlights. He held a meeting at his house with the school’s principal, and invited friends to attend. At the end of the night, “we had signed up enough people to integrate the first grade and the second grade,” Orfield said. In subsequent years, the school remained racially mixed, having an indelible impact on the surrounding neighborhood, Orfield said. However, Orfield’s story is an anomaly, and in surrounding areas, most of Washington, D.C., did not follow his lead. A new report, written by Orfield as part of the UCLA Civil Rights Project, highlights the persistent and pervasive patterns of school segregation in the nation’s capital. In Washington, D.C., Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that made state-sponsored school segregation unconstitutional, did not spur contentious change. The city’s students were never forced to attend schools with children of different races. White and black children continued to occupy different spheres, especially as the...

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