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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Institutionalizing Disparities in Education: A Case Study of Segregation in Wayne County, North Carolina High Schools


This study uses GIS to analyze the student bodies and the attendance zones of high schools in Wayne County to address the issue of racial and economic segregation. In this case study, we examine a school district in Wayne County, North Carolina, which was 34.5% minority in 1989 (Census, 1990), with a poverty rate of 15.2%. Prior to merger, the county had two school districts: one predominantly White and one predominantly Black. The lone predominantly Black high school, prior to merger (1988-89), changed from 82.5% minority and 49.0% poor to 99.9% minority and 86% poor (2008-09, post-merger). Using GIS, we analyzed race and other socio-economic factors of the county’s school attendance zones as currently designed by the Wayne County School Board. We also used GIS to design alternative attendance zones, in order to assess the need for such segregation to achieve neighborhood schools, and conclude that there was no need to maintain severely segregated schools in order to achieve community schools.

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