The Supreme Court's landmark school-desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down 60 years ago this week, had little immediate impact on Dallas ISD. Schools remained officially segregated for years and de facto segregated for decades, as district officials slow-walked integration and white families fled to the suburbs. It wasn't until 2003 that U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders declared DISD officially desegregated.
Good feelings all around. But zoom out a tad, fast-forward a decade and the gains that were made in DISD -- and pretty much everywhere else in the country -- are eroding, according to an examination of Brown's legacy released this week by researchers with UCLA's Civil Rights Project.
One important measure the researchers use to gauge integration is minority exposure to white students, calculated based on the average racial composition of individual campuses. DISD ranks dead last, at least among the 50 largest urban school districts that have been on federal desegregation plans.
In 2011, black exposure to whites was 3.1 percent, while Latino exposure to whites was 3.9 percent, both numbers having dropped significantly over the preceding decade as DISD's white population dropped by more than a third, from 7.2 percent to 4.7 percent.
It's not hard to see what's happening. There's been a white exodus from DISD, leaving the black and Hispanic students that remain in schools with an increasing concentration of minorities. This is bad news for those kids, because with racial segregation comes economic segregation, both of which correspond with poor educational outcomes.
Integration's downward trend in DISD mirrors what's been happening elsewhere in Texas and the rest of the country. The researchers report that, after a quarter century of post-Brown gains, there's been considerable backsliding.
Take the South (including Texas), where the Brown decision was aimed and had its most striking effect. The percentage of black students in majority white schools climbed from 0 in 1954 to 44 percent at the end of the 1980s, then declined steadily over the next two decades. In 2011, the figure was 23.2 percent.
During the same time, the number of black students attending hyper-segregated schools (those with a 90 percent minority population) jumped from 24 percent in 1988 to 34.2 percent in 2011.
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Southern Latinos are even more likely than blacks to attend hyper-segregated schools (41.5 percent).
Texas fares worse than average on these measures. Only 13.1 percent of the state's black students and 11 percent of Latinos go to majority-white schools, while 42.7 percent of black students and 53.5 percent of Latinos attend hyper-segregated schools.
Texas isn't quite the most segregated state in the country (New York's more segregated for blacks, California for Latinos), but it's near the bottom.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.