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Brown Vs. Board: Our Role in Achieving Integrated and Equitable Schools

Brown Vs. Board: Our Role in Achieving Integrated and Equitable Schools

May 17, 2024 marked the 70th anniversary of the groundbreaking Supreme Court case, Brown Vs. Board of Education, which made segregation in schools illegal. In the past 70 years, our country and city have become remarkably more diverse, but do we finally have equitable and integrated schools?

I think most of us can answer this question without even reviewing the data—the answer is no. And perhaps the data paints an even graver picture: according to a 2022 Century Foundation study, one in six public school children attend a school where 90 percent of the students share their race. Worse, segregation is on the rise, as evidenced by study after study, like this one by economists from Stanford and the University of Southern California.

Integrated schools are an opportunity for us to practice the values that so many of us preach, and research also shows that they are good for students—helping with empathy, supporting college enrollment, improved test scores, encouraging critical thinking, and helping to reduce racial bias.

What can we do?

If you are a new parent or someone who has not settled down, I want to encourage you to think about integrated schools now because unless you prioritize integration, it can be difficult to live those values later on.

One of the best things that you can do, even if you aren’t a parent, is to take the Integrated Schools two tour pledge and try to tour your local public school. This time of year, the spring, many public schools are offering open houses.

Touring your public school is important because we often think we know about our local schools, but we may be operating on outdated information—perhaps from our own experiences as kids or from hearsay that may not be accurate.

Plus, touring your local public school will give you far more information than a simple score on a website. My son’s school in Philadelphia gets a whopping C- on—and yet it has been sensational for my kid and our family.

Talking to teachers, students, the principal, and current parents can be very informative.

Here are a few ways to learn more about your local school:

Tour a school: This was the most important way I first learned about my son’s school. Schools have open houses that you can attend. They can be at inopportune times, but if you can make the time, they are extremely helpful. This is a great way to see a school, meet the administrators and staff, and see the culture in action.

Follow your school on social media: Many schools have Facebook or Instagram accounts that are run by the school or a school support group. Follow the school! Like their posts! It’s such an easy and low-cost way to support your community.

Join a school support group: Some schools have support groups that anyone can join. These groups typically fundraise for the school. Whether you’re able to financially donate or not, you can donate your time to support their fundraising activities. These groups can also be a great way to meet people in your community and learn about the school.

Attend events: Our local school has an annual 5k to fundraise but there are so many other nice events you can go to throughout the year.

Support a teacher’s GoFundMe or DonorsChoose: You can search websites like GoFundMe or DonorsChoose for teachers who are fundraising at your school.

We have such a diverse society; we need integrated and equitable public schools to bring us together.

Yes, there are challenges—and certainly, white parents choosing global majority schools should think about how they can be an active and involved parent without hoarding opportunities for their child and school. If you are an economically privileged person, listen to the “Nice White Parents” podcast but don’t let it fool you—you can be actively involved and not an obnoxious parent.

The most important takeaway here is to not judge a school unless you have recent experience in the school. Whether it’s through a school tour, attending events, sending your kid there, working there—don’t paint all of the schools with one brush stroke.

If you don’t know your local school or if you’re aware that it’s struggling in some way, get involved! Tour the school and get to know the community—take part, listen, find out what that school community wants to improve, and help out.

Our country depends on great, integrated, and equitable public schools and our involvement is critical.

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