Fifty Years After 'Brown v. Board of Education'

Patterns of Immigration Often Create Schools Contrary to Ruling

Listen: Part 2: Los Angeles' Roosevelt High

Listen: Part 3: 'Mendez v. Westminster' Case

Listen: Part 4: Sherman Oaks, a Model for Integration

Listen: Part 5: Desegregation in San Francisco

Children on a playground at Leo Politi public school in East Los Angeles, Calif.

hide captionChildren on a playground at the Leo Politi Elementary School in East Los Angeles, Calif. Minorities make up about 98 percent of the public school's population.

Shepard Sherbell/Corbis

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the notion of "separate but equal" schooling unconstitutional, saying "separate" was inherently unequal. Yet in the decades since the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the demographics of the country have changed in ways the authors of the landmark decision never envisioned.

Throughout the country, patterns of housing and immigration have created neighborhoods that are extremely segregated. And in such areas, the quality of education provided by public schools is far from equal. Nowhere is this more evident than in California, where 100 percent of the students in some schools are members of minority groups.

As part of an ongoing examination this year of the legacy of the Brown decision, NPR's Claudio Sanchez and NPR's Ina Jaffe report from California for a five-part series looking at school segregation in America, then and now.

Stories in the Series

Garfield High NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports from Los Angeles' Garfield High, a school plagued with overcrowding, undertrained teachers and few resources. Mexican-American students make up 99 percent of the population.

Roosevelt High Sanchez reports from Los Angeles' Roosevelt High School, where virtually all of the students are Latino. Segregation there has as much to do with economics as with ethnicity.

Mendez v. Westminster Sanchez examines the little-known school desegregation case of Mendez v. Westminster. This California case won access for Mexican Americans to white schools in 1947 and helped set the stage seven years later for Brown v. Board of Education.

Sherman Oaks NPR's Ina Jaffe reports from the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, one of the integrated schools in Los Angeles. Sherman Oaks is a magnet school, but its students don't have to pass a test to get in. Instead, the school's only requirement is that the student body must be 40 percent white and 60 percent minority.

San Francisco In the half-century since Brown, creating racially diverse schools has met with mixed success. And in cities with ethnic and racial minorities from all over the world, such as San Francisco, desegregation is far more complicated. Sanchez reports on the effort there by schools to achieve a racial balance, even over the objections of some minority families who find that goal unnecessary or offensive.

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