Integration Matters – Separate is Never Equal

School Segregation too Close to Home

New York City schools are among the most segregated in the nation. As documented by the UCLA Civil Rights Project in 2014, more than half of NYC public school students 1 attend schools that are more than 90% Black and Latino, despite the fact that Black and Latino students make up 60% of the NYC public school enrollment.

Thursday, March 30 th Park Slope Collegiate (PSC), a combined middle and high school located inside the John Jay Campus, is hosting a forum to discuss issues of school segregation. Open to the public, the forum is hosted by the PSC Parent Teachers Association and will address the pressing need for integrated schools and an anti-racist curriculum.

Integration Matters – Separate is NEVER Equal will feature noted New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, as well as Collegiate Principal Jill Bloomberg and teacher Rhonda Hendrickson. The event will take place in the auditorium of John Jay Campus, 237 7th Avenue, Brooklyn.

Not enough is being done to confront the entrenched, systemic racial divide plaguing NYC Schools. The City has taken no steps on a systemic level, although it has promised to make a big announcement in this regard by June 2017. The creation of a scattered patchwork of individual “pilot” integrated schools has proven insufficient to address the issue or make progress towards a more integrated and inclusive school system.

District 15 (D15) follows these trends. Almost all D15 schools fail to reflect the rich diversity of our district. We need to begin to tackle this problem directly and with urgency.

Not only does school segregation run afoul of the U.S. Constitution by creating separate schools for students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, but segregation has been associated with a host of negative impacts on children, particularly among African-American families.

The benefits for ALL students of attending a diverse school are well documented. Research shows that students who attend diverse schools experience higher levels of comfort with members of other racial groups as well as increased civic engagement. For those students who struggle academically or who might be at risk in other ways, diverse schools lead to increased student performance, as demonstrated by steadily rising test scores and improved high school graduation rates. Diverse groups are more innovative and better at problem solving. Finally, integrated schools help close the stubborn racial achievement gap, without diminishing the individual excellence or talent of high-performing students.

And yet, D15 schools remain highly segregated. Elementary students are assigned based on where they live. Although faking addresses to get into “desirable” schools is commonplace across the City, our elementary schools are largely reflective of local segregated housing patterns. Thus solving the problem of student assignment
on the elementary level would require a significant change of policy for the Department of Education, which has not shown any inclination to tackle such significant and politically unpopular measures.

Middle schools, on the other hand, present a more immediate opportunity to address inequity. NYC Middle Schools are unzoned, theoretically drawing from across the district, They could more adequately reflect the socio-economic and ethnic make-up of our district.

Historically, despite the opportunity for all district students to apply to any middle school in D15, when compared to the middle school student population at large, our district has remained divided into two sets of schools: one that is disproportionately white and higher income, and another set that is nearly exclusively Latino and lower income. The second group is assigned a disproportionate share of high-needs students as well. The result is a lost opportunity for students to get to know their neighbors from only a few blocks away, as well as a perpetuation of historic patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination, and a concentration of higher and lower needs students in separate schools.

Join the dialogue to understand and address the persistent segregation of New York City Schools by attending the open forum Integration Matters – Separate is NEVER Equal. Thursday, March 30th in the Auditorium of the John Jay Campus.
6:30 to 8:30.

Produced with support of the Park Slope Civic Council.