Sunday, August 02, 2009

Do Schools Gentrify? Or Do They Just Stop Slumming?

A while back I wrote a post about the apparent gentrification of Decatur High School. I just finished reading Raymond Wolters' historical account of school desegregation, Race and Education, 1954-2007, about which I will comment more extensively in due course. But Wolters called attention to a 1992 Supreme Court decision, Freeman v. Pitts, that concerned the desegregation of the DeKalb County School System. DeKalb had been operating under a judicially imposed county-wide busing regimen to achieve racial balance, but the 1992 case determined that the district was now "unitary", a legal term-of-art meaning that it had corrected the effects of its Jim-Crow era segregation. Specifically, the Supremes stated that neither the racial disparities in academic performance nor the threat of resegregation that neighborhood school assignment would likely entail could justify continued race-conscious school assignment.

Decatur is the county seat of DeKalb County. Interestingly, the majority-white Decatur City now has its own school district separate from the school system of majority-black DeKalb County. I have no idea if this was true 25 years ago. Technically, it was the DeKalb County School System that was the defendant in Freeman v. Pitts, not Decatur City, and I have not been able to figure out if Decatur High School was affected. The end of race-conscious busing, however, might have been the very transformation that allowed Decatur High School to more closely reflect its surrounding demographics.

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