National Coalition on School Diversity Continues to Call for Increase in Racial and Economic Integration in Education Department Programs

Friday, May 18, 2012

On May 18, 2012, during the National Coalition on School Diversity's (NCSD) second national conference, school diversity experts, along with Congressional and federal officials, gathered to discuss the ongoing impact of landmark education decisions.

In 1945, Latino parents in Orange County, California confronted segregation of their children by suing four local school districts. In 1946, this landmark case ended segregation in California school districts and foreshadowed the national 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation case. Now, in 2012, a coalition of school diversity experts gathered to discuss the ongoing impact of these cases during "Advancing the Legacy of Mendez and Brown: the National Conference on School Diversity." The conference featured panels such as: Framing Brown and Mendez in Contemporary Context; Supporting Pro-Integration Leaders in Diverse and Demographically Changing Schools and Parallel Movements: Incorporating School Integration into School Reform Agendas.

NCSD continues to push for a more significant commitment to racial and economic integration in U.S. Department of Education programs - in magnet schools, charter schools, through interdistrict transfers under No Child Left Behind, and in the new education funds Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation Fund. This second annual conference addressed all of these issues, featuring:

  • Opportunities to engage with key officials in the Obama Administration on education enforcement and policy actions.

    • Administration officials representing the Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education; and Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice attended.

  • Participants heard testimony from educators about the challenges and successes of integration efforts in their local communities; and

  • Workshops explored the connections between school diversity research and school reform policies and priorities.

The conference also provided a forum for advocates and practitioners to discuss how to build genuine and long-lasting community support for integration efforts. Drawing from projects and programs that work closely with parents, students, and community organizers, workshop participants are learning about developing a strong collective understanding of the larger political and social context behind school reform efforts and building an awareness of the educational and social benefits of integration.

Held at Georgetown University Law Center, the conference featured representatives from national organizations, including:  NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Poverty and Race Research Action Council, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center. Other participants included law and education professors, social scientists, and local school superintendents.

A full agenda, including a list of participants and panels is available here.

National Education, School Diversity and Civil Rights Experts Weigh In On Issues of Diversity and Significance of Today's National Conference on School Diversity

 "At a time when the minority K-12 student population, especially the Latino population, is soaring, we cannot afford to turn our backs now on school integration efforts.  Children growing up separately and being educated separately should not be the expected norm for our children and we hope pathways to integrated opportunities were provided at this seminal conference."
--David Hinojosa, Regional Counsel (San Antonio, TX), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

"The enduring promise of Brown and Menendez is the fundamental belief that racial integration produces positive social, academic and economic outcomes for all students. An ongoing commitment to diverse and integrated learning environments is critical to preserving that legacy.  Nationwide, many of our schools are more racially isolated today than before Brown and predominantly poor and minority schools tend to offer more limited and less resourced educational opportunities.
--Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Public Policy Director Tanya Clay House and Educational Opportunities Senior Counsel Brenda Shum.

"U.S. schools are becoming steadily less white and more segregated for the last 30 years and there has been no serious effort to avoid a spread of segregation to large sectors of suburbia, which are now home to most middle class nonwhite families.  The South and West already have a minority of white students.  We are betting the nation's future and the future of our communities on segregated education, something that has never worked on any significant scale and is systemically unfair to the coming majority of nonwhite students."
--Gary Orfield, Co-Director, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA

"The late John Payton, LDF's sixth President and Director-Counsel, often noted that "American democracy thrives when it embraces all of our voices."  This principle served as the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which affirmed the tangible benefits of diversity in higher education and noted the importance of maintaining visible pathways to leadership for all students.  And it is part of the mission of the National Coalition on School Diversity.  This principle is now under attack, however, in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a higher education admissions case set for oral argument before the Supreme Court in October.  LDF stands ready, as it has in the past, to meet this challenge.  Working with the Coalition and its members, we will fight to ensure that the Court once again recognizes that diverse learning environments are crucial to equip young people with the skills necessary to participate meaningfully in our nation's civic life and to flourish in our globalizing workplaces."

--Damon Hewitt, Director of the Education Practice Group, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.


"The Mendez and Brown cases presented a truly radical vision for America  -- an idea that we like to promote with pictures like the ones that accompany our conference brochure, beautiful smiling children of all colors learning together ostensibly to create one strong, unified, multiracial nation.  We all know that these pictures are contrary to the truth in most public schools, though, and that this vision has been stymied by many forms of resistance.  And yet there is cause for optimism.  With each passing decade the ranks of culturally dexterous citizens who like and embrace diversity grows exponentially and NCSD is gathering power to fight for saner policies that can make integration a lived reality for most Americans." 
--Sheryll Cashin, Professor of Law, Georgetown University and Author of The Failures of Integration

"In the long run, meaningful school integration has been shown to reduce racial tension and anti-immigrant harassment.  Therefore, school integration will not only foster safe and supportive school environments but improve overall race relations in our increasingly multicultural society."

--Khin Mai Aung, Director, Educational Equity and Youth Rights Project, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund