70 years after Brown v Board, segregation remains in NC public schools

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, May 17, 2024
70 years after Brown v Board, how segregated are NC public schools?
Friday marks 70 years since school integration became the law of the land, and a new study reveals North Carolina schools still have work to do.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Friday marks 70 years since school integration became the law of the land, and a new study reveals North Carolina schools still have work to do.

Julia Fairley, 76, was in third grade when the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) came down declaring it unconstitutional to separate children in public schools based on their race. Even though it became the law of the land, she didn't experience it right away.

"White children and Black children didn't go to school together in Durham," Fairley said as she showed ABC11 photos of herself from her Durham high school days.

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It wasn't until she was in the seventh grade that two of her friends became trailblazers. They were bussed off to join White students in the classroom.

According to "Can Our Schools Capture the Educational Gains of Diversity? North Carolina School Segregation, Alternatives and Possible Gains", a joint study between researchers at N.C. State University and UCLA, even as North Carolina's public schools have become more racially diverse, they are more segregated now than they were 30 years ago.

The findings showed that in 2021:

  • 1 in 4 Black students and nearly 1 in 5 Hispanic students attend intensely segregated schools, which are mostly schools of color
  • The typical Black student attended a school with 28% White schoolmates.
  • The typical Hispanic students attended a school with 36% White schoolmates.
  • The typical White student attended a school where 58% of all students were White.

Jenn Ayscue is a professor at N.C. State University and one of the researchers who contributed to this project. She told ABC11 that there are differences between students who attend segregated and integrated schools.

"In terms of segregated schools of color those are associated with lower levels of academic achievement, higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates," she said.

According to Ayscue, students who attend segregated schools have lower outcomes because the opportunities provided to those students tend to be inequitable with less experienced teachers and fewer resources. She said students who attend integrated schools benefit more.

"Higher levels of academic achievement, higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates. In the long term, they have higher status and better-paying jobs, better health outcomes and they are less likely to be incarcerated," she said.

The research also found that school districts can help by redrawing attendance boundaries in ways that facilitate integration, developing student assignment policies that prioritize diversity and forming magnet programs.

" My daughter, Sophia, when I look at her friends when I drive up at carpool the range of diversity of her friend group is amazing," said Marie Dexter, whose daughter attends Athens Drive Magnet High School.

Last month, the Wake County Public School System celebrated two of its magnet schools for receiving the highest national distinction awarded by Magnet Schools of America. They are Conn Magnet Elementary School and Athens Drive Magnet High School.

"She's brought home so many cultural things to us as a family that we can learn. I feel like she's much better prepared to be a person of the world," said Dexter.