Dallas ISD Is One of the Most Segregated School Districts in the Country

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

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.

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.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.