Brown v. Board of Education: Racial divides continue six decades after decision

Students in America’s public schools face growing racial isolation, a sobering reality as the nation commemorates the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared “separate but equal” segregation policies were unconstitutional.
Today most of the court orders written in the 1960s and 1970s to implement the Brown decision have been vacated.  Many local school boards have abandoned the busing plans created to achieve desegregation and now allow “housing patterns” to determine the racial composition of neighborhood schools.
As a result, despite sharp increases in minority enrollment, racial divides have widened significantly in recent years. In 1980, the typical black student attended a public school that was 36 percent white. Today, that school is 29 percent white.  For most minority students, 75 percent or more of their classmates are fellow minorities.
“Unfortunately, we are looking at a pretty dismal picture,” says Professor Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project at  the University of California, Los Angeles. “Segregation, generally, has increased dramatically.”
Search in the interactive below to see the racial breakdown of public schools in your state and county. Green schools have a higher percentage of minority students while blue schools have a higher percentage of white students.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Education
Among the shifts:
  • A greater proportion of students today attend the most segregated schools. During the 2011-2012 school year, about 39 percent of the nation’s Hispanic, black, Asian and Native American students attended schools that were 90 percent minority. That’s up from 32 percent in 1988.
  • Latino students are especially affected because 43 percent attend extremely segregated schools (at least 90 percent minority) compared to 23 percent in 1968.
  • Today there are more than 17,500 extremely segregated schools nationwide, the largest number ever counted by the U.S. Department of Education. More than one-sixth of all schools are 90 percent minority.
  • Although 46 states have extremely segregated schools, the highest concentration of 90 percent minority institutions occurs outside the South. Nearly 36 percent of all California schools are extremely segregated, as are 30 percent of New York schools and 32 percent of schools in Texas.
When new data is released for the current school year, the Department of Education predicts that for the first time in U.S. history, whites will account for less than half of public school enrollment.
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