Illinois school district latest to bring segregation back to education

One idea that that is gaining ground is to determine which students get first shot at in-person learning by segregating them by race.
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

As cities try to figure out how to bring students and teachers back into the classroom, many school boards and education administrators are looking to non-traditional approaches to ensure both safety and educational access. One idea that that is gaining ground is to determine which students get first shot at in-person learning by segregating them by race.

In Evanston, where state representative LaShawn Ford recently advocated for terminating history courses until a more "fair," considerations for who should get first priority at in-person learning may be decided by these factors.

Deputy Superintendent Latarsha Green of Illinois school district 65, said that their school reopening task force planned to give priority to "students receiving free or reduced lunch, Black and Brown students, students who received an I [Incomplete] or less than 50 percent on their report cards, emerging bilinguals, and students with IEPs. There are also other categories in relation to students who are not performing according to reading or math grade-level expectations, and students with no comorbidity factors."

A plan of this type has also been proposed by Seattle schools. Meanwhile, in New York, the nation's largest school system, efforts have been ceaselessly underway to figure out how best to desegregate schools.

In Ithaca, school officials report that the black students in their district are more interested in maintaining remote learning and not returning to in-person learning. One student told schools superintendent Luvelle Brown "I haven’t been to the [principal's] office in months. I'm reading material that is responsive to things I want to read about."

Public schools in Alexandria, Virg., will be going entirely remote this coming term. While they intend to support vulnerable students with technology, meals distribution, and bi-lingual help lines, educators there superintendent Gregory Hutchings reported that virtual learning was benefiting black and brown students.

"Typically our Black and brown students don’t feel as engaged as their white counterparts. This is the first time that we’re seeing no disparity," Hutchings said. "That to me is concerning because it means many Black and brown kids who don’t feel safe in school are feeling more welcome now, [while] remote. That is shocking."

Whether in terms of remote learning or in-person learning, school districts are looking to keep kids divided by race. This is exactly in contradiction to previous guidance that was about the benefits of integrated learning. The goal in 2019 from New York City schools was in "Making sure our city’s schools reflect the diversity of its residents is a top priority."

A report from the New York City City Council on school diversity from 2019 showed that "In New York City public schools, 74.6 [percent] of black and Hispanic students attend a school with less than 10 [percent]  white students. Additionally, 34.3 [percent]  of white students attend a school with more than 50 [percent]  white students." Much effort and resources have been put into making this a reality.

The emergence of the coronavirus and civil unrest that has befallen the US this spring has changed the mindset of educators from a model wherein all students should learn together regardless of race, to one where the education of black and brown students is intended to be prioritized over that of students of other races.

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Libby Emmons
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