Chat Transcripts (Unedited): “US Supreme Court and Desegregation”

Diverse Education, July 11, 2007

Unedited Transcript “log” for Chat Event: “US_Supreme_Court_and_Desegregation” moderated by Diverse Senior Staff Writer, David Pluviose

Chat Date/Time: July 10, 2007, 1–2pm EDT

freetown85(Q) I am curious . . . what is now being done at the two school districts that were affected by the decision?

Dr_Wells(A) We do not yet know.

Toni(Q) Dr. Flowers, my question is about the academic performance of Black students in all-Black settings versus integrated settings. Do Blacks really perform better in integrated environments?

Dr_Flowers(A) In general, research surrounding this topic has produced mixed results. The weight of evidence regarding this question suggests that African American students who attend historically Black colleges and universities perform similarly, and in some cases better, than African American students who attend predominantly White colleges. The limited research conducted involving K-12 schools has shown that race negatively impacts educational outcomes for Black students. However, the primary factor impacting this outcome has been closely linked to class standing and income levels.

Moderator (comment) This officially begins today’s Web chat. I would like to welcome all participants to Diverse: Issues In Higher Education’s Web chat on “The U.S. Supreme Court and Desegregation.” We will be discussing the high court’s decision to strike down school integration programs in Seattle and Louisville.

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moderator(Q) Practically, what does this decision mean for school integration plans both in K-12 and higher education?

dr_tatum(A) Many K-12 school districts will back away from their current race-based programs for fear of legal difficulties.

moderator(Q) How many school systems does these rulings affect?

Dr_Flowers(A) In effect, I believe, the ruling will enable individuals to challenge voluntary and court-ordered integration plans throughout the United States. While the exact implementation and timing of these various legal challenges is not clear. This ruling clearly provides the legal precedent for such challenges.

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tomika(Q) Dr. Tatum,do you think the decision will affect higher education?

dr_tatum(A) Yes, because I think there will be more conservative law suits brought against colleges and universities in an effort to use a similar legal strategy chipping away at existing court rulings.

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lemar If “copy cat” lawsuits will be forthcoming what strategy should the progressive community be employing?

lorraine(Q) Lorraine: Raymond_ Pierce: What are the next steps to achieve educational parity for students?

Raymond_Pierce(A) Lorraine: The next steps for achieving educational parity for students I believe will have to be a focus on improving the quality of schools available to our students while at the same time addressing those issues that prevent our students from attending school prepared to receive instruction. In my opinion far too disproportionate an emphasis is placed on the public school system of education and not enough on the preparation of students to learn while in school.

moderator(Q) What types of decisions does it effect? There appears to be two strains of diversity cases, those which were implemented due to “explicit” past racism and those implemented to “better the student body.” If that is such, would it not only effect the latter set?

Dr_Wells(A) Yes—that is true. Originally, court-ordered school desegregation plans were designed to remedy the harms of de jure or state-mandated, Jim Crow segregation education. Such plans are still ok until the federal judges overseeing them declare those school districts to be unitary or rid of the vestiges of such de jure segregation. These cases speak to school districts’ more voluntary efforts to overcome or undue the harms of de facto segregation, which is not explicitly state mandated although many public policies and discriminatory acts can contribute to it. Thus, those who sided with the school districts in these cases argued that the school officials had a compelling state interest in remedying such segregation. Now, according to the Supreme Court, it will be much more difficult to do that.

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moderator(Q) How does race factor into educational outcomes now, as opposed to the pre-Brown v. Board days of state sanctioned segregation?

dr_tatum(A) Pre-Brown schools were racially segregated but socio-economically diverse, which means that Black children had opportunities for role models in and out of the classroom. However, today, racially isolated schools tend to also be high poverty schools and achievement in high poverty schools is often much lower than in economically diverse schools, regardless of the racial makeup.

Add_Seymour_Jr.(Q) But isn’t there a trend towards neighborhoods becoming less diverse and more clustered in this country?

Dr_Wells(A) Actually, racial segregation in housing peaked in 1970 in this country. Since then there has been a VERY slow decline in housing segregation—much slower than many had hoped. Furthermore, we see that racial segregation is perpetuated in suburban communities as more African Americans and Latinos move to the suburbs. Even middle-class Blacks and Latinos who move into middle-class suburbs remain fairly segregated.

Thomas_Smyth__Augusta_Chronicle(Q) To all panelists: how will this decision affect race-based admissions policies at magnet schools in a school system that is not under a court order? Because magnet schools “attract” rather than “assign” based in part on race, will they be permitted under Justice Kennedy’s opinion? Could magnet schools use racial “quotas” as one of several factors?

dr_tatum(A) Those programs are at risk for legal challenge if they continue to use race as a deciding factor in school placement.

{snip}such, it adheres to the Supreme Court rulings, Prop 2, Prop 209, etc.

freetown85(Q) Did the Supreme Court Justices completely misinterpret Brown?

Raymond_Pierce(A) I believe the Supreme Court Justices performed a disservice to the judicial honor of the Brown decision by actually using the spirit of Brown to issue a ruling disallowing the use of race in correcting racial isolation. Regardless, the decision comes as no surprise given the composition of the court. If there is a consensus of a concern about the educational attainment levels of students of color strategies must be quickly identified and implemented that can have a reasonable likelihood of improving the situation yet at the same time does not rely on a legal course that has been clearly eliminated by this Supreme Court decision.

Michelle_Dacus_Carr(Q) Dr. Tatum, Given that you preside over one of the nation’s top hbcu’s, do you see any advantages to the possibility of re-segregating educational institutions?

dr_tatum(A) I think hbcu’s serve an important function in educating today’s Black college students. However, there is tremendous value in children learning at an early age how to interact with people different from themselves. Public education K-12 must educate all students well, and a re-segregated system is not likely to do that.

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Matthew_S.(Q) What do you all think about Richard Kahlenberg’s suggestion of using socioeconomic status to accomplish racially desegregation?

Dr_Wells(A) I think that SES integration is one strategy that can be useful in trying to avoid concentrated poverty in public schools. We know that such concentrated poverty is the single most consistent predictor of low academic achievement in education. Still, I do not think that SES desegregation alone is the answer. Depending on the demographics of a community, such a policy can leave a high degree of racial segregation in place. Also, I think that abandoning race-conscious policies in the U.S. suggests that race does not matter any more—that we can all be colorblind and get along. But in reality, we know that race does matter a great deal—otherwise we would not see on-going white flight from middle- and working-class suburbs that are experiencing an influx of Black and Latino residents!

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Dr._Juan_Gilbert (comment)We don’t have to abandon race-conscious policies. There is an alternative called Applications Quest. The issue at hand is racial preferences. If you can prove that race is being used, but not given preference, then you can still implement race-conscious policies. Lets not abandon race-conscious policies.

Margaret (comment)But how can you utilize race and prove that it is one of many factors but not a primary factor? Is this not what schools and school districts already say they are doing?

Raymond_Pierce (comment) I agree that we should not abandon race conscious policies where they are constitutionally permissible. At the same time there must be an emphasis on addressing those issues that negatively impact a child’s ability to come to school, receive instruction and go home in an environment conducive to that child returning to school the next day again prepared to learn in a structured environment. I do not believe any race conscious school assignment of students will address that issue.

moderator(Q) Justice Scalia has hinted that pumping more money into majority-Black school systems will help negate the need for forced integration. Is lack of resources the primary barrier to school system quality?

Dr_Flowers(A) This suggestion, in part, will play a role in improving the academic achievement in majority-Black school systems because it may enable schools to attract quality teachers, provide excellent resources, and integrate more college preparatory learning experiences in the classroom. However, it is equally advantageous to provide resources to improve the local communities in which these schools exist.

anyjah(Q) Dr. Tatum—Your “pre-brown” answer mentions economic factors, which many universities are now attempting to use in place of race to promote diversity. Do you promote the use of these factors as a replacement for race in admissions decisions for K-12 and higher education?

dr_tatum(A) In North Carolina, the Wake County public schools are using socio-economic status to limit the concentration of poor students in any one school to no more than 40%. They are also looking at student achievement levels to limit the concentration of low achieving students to no more than 25%. By doing so, this race neutral policy has created racially and ethnically diverse schools without the concentration of poverty associated with resegregation. While this strategy might not work everywhere, it seems to be beneficial in Wake County where they have seen improvement in the performance of low income students.

lpalmiter(Q) So how do we tie race and socioeconomics to positive outcomes with diverse learning environments?

Dr_Wells(A) Social scientists and school officials across the country will be working on this in the coming months. One possible solution is to begin using geography and neighborhood as well as various indicators of advantage/disadvantage—mother’s education, English language proficiency, etc.—in assigning students to “diverse” schools. For instance, given the segregated nature of neighborhoods in our society and given the fact that students often study their cities or metro areas as part of their elementary school social studies curriculum, a pedagogical claim can be made that drawing students together from separate and unequal neighborhoods is an important tool in teaching children about the complexity of the places where they live. This is but one suggested strategy. More will emerge in light of Justice Kennedy’s ruling the measures he suggests are permissible to use when taking race into account in K-12 student assignments—e.g. where new schools are built, attendance boundaries, resources for special programs, targeted recruitments of students and faculty, and collecting data on race.

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Thomas_Smyth__Augusta_Chronicle(Q) Are there civil-rights groups who might support a county’s attempt in court to maintain race-based admissions policies in magnet schools?

Dr_Flowers(A) I think in light of the recent ruling, it would be necessary for any group that wished to support this type of legal challenge to ensure that they have considered other alternatives, in addition to race, that supports any admission policy. This ruling makes evident the importance of justifying the rationale and system in maintaining racially-balanced schools.

Margaret (comment)With the significant financial and time commitments school districts have made to develop accountability plans to adhere to No Child Left Behind policies, do you think schools have the will or desire to engage in a struggle to create new ways to utilize race-based preferences for maintaining diversity?

dr_tatum(P) A comment I want to make is that so far the discussions focuses on the impact of the decision on Black children, but I think it is important to say that White children are also negatively impacted by attending racially isolated schools. White children in all-white schools are not prepared for a diverse society.

Add_Seymour_Jr.(Q) What will this decision do for the charter school movement?

Dr_Wells(A) This is a good question. I actually think it will do very little for charter schools, given that most of them are fairly segregated by race as it is. While most state charter school laws require charter school applications to explain how the school will recruit a student body that is reflective of the racial make up of the surrounding school district, very few charter schools actually do this. Thus, they tend to be even more racially segregated than nearby public schools. There are many reasons for this—including the lack of transportation and outreach money available to charter schools to attract students from across segregated neighborhoods. In other instances, the racial homogeneity of a charter school is an attraction to some parents. Either way, they tend to be very segregated at the school level when you disaggregate the data, and I do not think this decision will affect that much at all unless more charter schools take on “diversity” as their theme and identity and then try to work within Kennedy’s suggested measures to achieve that goal. Thus far, there seems to be limited political support for such efforts within the charter school movement.

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lorraine(Q) Lorraine: Dr. Tatum- Can we continue to discuss diversity without a conversation about race in our colleges and universities? If not, how do we begin such a dialogue?

dr_tatum(A) In my book, “Can We Talk About Race,” I make the point that we really cannot make significant progress on this issue until we engage in honest conversation about the past and present influence of racial attitudes on our daily interactions. My advice is to organize a book discussion group among college administrators as one way to get the conversation started.

Raymond_Pierce (comment)The attraction for charter schools in large part is an issue of safety. Many parents trapped in a school system that is failing students are even more concerned with the exposure their students have to behavior and conduct that might negatively impact their child. In many such school districts charter schools are viewed as a welcomed relief and an option to what is viewed as disorder and undesirable environments for which to place a child.

lorraine(Q) Lorraine: Does it seem deliberate to continue to keep black students from the educational experiences needed to survive in a society that is based on technology and international experiences?

Dr_Wells(A) While the supporters of this decision would never frame it that way, this could well be the outcome for many Black students who currently attend racially diverse public schools that offer such resources and who will end up, as a result of this decision, back in separate and unequal schools. We know quite clearly from the social science research that the “harms of segregation” for students of color include a greater likelihood that they will be in schools with fewer resources, less qualified teachers, more teacher turnover, less challenging curriculum, lower graduation rates, and fewer connections to institutions of higher education. That should help to answer your question.

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moderator(Q) How does class factor into the diversity argument?

Dr_Wells(A) Obviously, there is a strong correlation between race and class in the U.S., with African Americans and Latinos far more likely to be poor than whites or some Asian groups. Even among middle-class African Americans and Latinos, the same income, if they can get it, will not go as far because they are more likely than whites to have poor relatives and neighbors who need their support. Furthermore, their wealth is not nearly as great, and due to housing segregation, their property values and thus the worth of their homes—usually their greatest investment—are also lower. These are just a few of the ways in which race and class are intertwined.

Thomas_Smyth__Augusta_Chronicle(Q) What research has been released recently or is currently in progress on the benefits of integration? It seems that such research might play a large role in future court cases.

dr_tatum(A) Dr. Gary Orfield, founder of the civil rights project, organized hundreds of social scientists in a friend-of-the-court brief that documented many studies demonstrating the educational value of diversity. The decision of the court essentially ignored that evidence. The evidence exists and the civil rights project is a good source of information. Check out their website.

moderator We’ve reached the official end to our discussion. I’d like to thank our distinguished panelists for their insightful commentary. Though panelist questioning is over, participants are invited to continue Web chats as the chat room will remain open. Use the “send” button instead if the “ask” button.

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Dr_Flowers(A) A prominent strategy of social scientists and educators who believe in the merits of racial integration is to study and explore a variety of influences to academic achievement. While achieving racially-balanced school environments provides one avenue to pursuing this aim, our work must require a more complex equation of inputs and experiences in fostering achievement for all students.

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T._Berry (comment) Dr. Flowers how would you form a cultural diverse workshop that helps people to identify their identity instead of forming workshops that are centered around playing cultural games to understand culture?

T._Berry(Q) I am currently reading Dr. Tatum’s book entitled Can We Talk about Race. What do you think educators can do now to suburban children learn to deal with their identify?

Dr_Flowers(A) Educators must first be well-versed in the study of racial identity and understand the various theories, antecedents, and influences on racial identity development. Together with researchers and curriculum designers, particular lesson plans may be developed that take into account the general issues of racial identity development but also the issues that are specific to the local community.

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T._Berry (comment) Dr. Flowers I do see that here in Texas there is a lot of emphasis on Bilingual education. This is a great thing, but other ethnic groups are being left behind in the services that Bilingual parents receive. How can an educator make an impact without being one-sided?

Dr_Flowers (comment) T. Berry I think the issue is whether you are seeking a long-term strategy to improve the educational outcomes for all students. Having said that, given the complexities of these types of issues, I believe it is necessary to address issues in a way that lays the groundwork for resolution. That is, to focus on solving one problem in a very purposeful manner before incorporating other issues is one strategy in moving us forward. It is a very difficult concept in practice and requires a delicate balance. I appreciate all of the excellent questions and stimulating dialogue. In light of a court decision of this magnitude, it is important to stimulate insightful dialogue to enable the public and educational personnel to have a better understanding of the court’s ruling and the potential consequences on the American educational system. I look forward to the continued dialogue in the future and pursuing research and strategies that will improve academic achievement for all of our students and expand their abilities to work together to build a stronger nation.

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