Brown's Legacy and Future



VIDEO EXTRA:
Go to nsba.org to view a video accompanying
this article to deepen your understanding
of resegregation after Brown

By Del Stover

The pace is energetic in the early-morning civics class at Milliones University Preparatory School in Pittsburgh. Teacher Lisa Fevola encourages her ninth-grade students to plan individual service projects with a real-life, practical impact on their school or community. The teens toss out ideas: Pick up neighborhood trash. Lobby the city to combat speeding on local streets. Discourage bullying in the school.

“What can you do to make a difference?” Fevola asks. “How do you plan on making a difference?”

It’s a scene that belies the ceaseless criticism leveled at public education these days. In this inner-city classroom, students are learning. They are demonstrating higher-level thinking skills. This classroom could be viewed as an example of the culmination of the promise of Brown v. Board of Education -- the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned state-sanctioned school segregation and mandated equality and equity in the education of all American schoolchildren.

Yet, one glaring fact undermines this uplifting premise: Every student in the classroom is black.

No serious integration exists at Milliones, and Pittsburgh school officials can’t do anything about it. The city’s demographics conspire against them. The school draws its students from the highly segregated Hill District, a predominately black neighborhood, where 40 percent of residents live below the poverty level.

As a result, nearly 95 percent of the students are black. Despite a small magnet program on campus, only a handful of white students are enrolled. Brown may have launched the nation’s effort to integrate the public schools, but on the court ruling’s 60th anniversary, the legacy of “separate but equal” still has a foothold at this campus.

“Because of segregated residential patterns ... we have some schools that are nearly 100 percent African-American,” says Superintendent Linda Lane. “But I feel that it is very important that schools, no matter what their demographic makeup, are strong schools. They have to be strong schools, and so we’re focused on [that].”

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