Schools Abandon Forced Integration

By Innerst, Carol | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 20, 1996 | Go to article overview

Schools Abandon Forced Integration


Innerst, Carol, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Four decades after the Supreme Court ordered public schools to integrate, school officials throughout the country are abandoning hope of achieving racial balance in many majority-black school systems.

The Prince George's County Board of Education threw in the towel with a 5-4 vote Tuesday to drop racial quotas that are preventing about 500 black children from filling empty seats in magnet schools that were created to attract white students.

Debates over neighborhood schools and busing for integration are going on in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Seattle, Boston, Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Wilmington, Del.

Oklahoma City, Denver and Norfolk will return to neighborhood schools at the elementary level in the fall. In some cases, school officials said, the changes could mean that some schools will have all-black or all-white populations.

The Massachusetts State Board of Education is considering repeal of a 22-year-old state law that says any school with a minority enrollment of more than 50 percent is racially unbalanced.

"The first and biggest misconception about school desegregation is that it was permanent," said Christine Rossell, a researcher and political science professor at Boston University. Ms. Rossell serves as a consultant to school districts that are developing voluntary desegregation plans.

"Neighborhood schools, according to [Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court desegregation ruling], are constitutional because neighborhood schools are a race-neutral system," she said.

"What black parents really want is neighborhood schools with choice," Ms. Rossell said. "If they get stuck at a bad one, they want to be able to leave. Whites are perceived as having more freedom with regard to where they live."

Ms. Rossell said magnet schools work, but racial quotas are important if desegregation is their mission.

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