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Open Access Publications from the University of California

PICS: Statement of American Social Scientists of Research on School Desegregation Submitted to US Supreme Court


The body of research that has developed since the Court declared government-sanctioned school racial segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Educa- tion, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), supports three interrelated conclusions: (1) racially integrated schools provide signifi- cant benefits to students and communities, (2) racially isolated schools have harmful educational implications for students, and (3) race-conscious policies are necessary to maintain racial integration in schools.3 Amici submit that these research findings are relevant and supportive of the educational judgments that underlie the student assign- ment policies at issue in the instant cases.

Racially integrated schools prepare students to be effective citizens in our pluralistic society, further social cohesion, and reinforce democratic values. They promote cross-racial understanding, reduce prejudice, improve critical thinking skills and academic achievement, and enhance life opportunities for students of all races. These benefits are maximized when schools are structured in ways that optimize intergroup contact. Communities also benefit from a potential workforce that is better prepared for a global economy, reduced residential segregation, and increased parental involvement in schools – all of which increase the stability of communities.

While there are examples of academically successful schools with high concentrations of nonwhite students, more often than not, segregated minority schools offer profoundly unequal educational opportunities. This inequality is manifested in many ways, including fewer qualified, experienced teachers, greater instability caused by rapid turnover of faculty, fewer educational resources, and limited exposure to peers who can positively influence academic learning. No doubt as a result of these dispari- ties, measures of educational outcomes, such as scores on standardized achievement tests and high school gradua- tion rates, are lower in schools with high percentages of nonwhite students.

Race-conscious student assignment policies are necessary to maintain racially integrated schools. Evi- dence shows that choice assignment policies that do not consider race as a factor in student assignments tend to result in racially homogeneous schools or lead to greater segregation; race-neutral policies that rely on socioeco- nomic status are not as effective in attaining racial diver- sity; and school districts that have eliminated race as a consideration in student assignment policies have experi- enced resegregation and the harmful consequences associ- ated with racially isolated schools.

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