De facto segregation not school board responsibility

The tiny Sausalito Marin City School District, which consists of two schools, is being sued by California Att. Gen. Xavier Becerra for maintaining unequal treatment (“First desegregation order in 50 years hits Marin schools,” Los Angeles Times, Sep. 22). Yet I maintain that the district is not legally responsible for de facto segregation that is a result of conditions beyond its control.

At issue is the racially mixed enrollment of Willow Creek in Sausalito and the racially imbalanced enrollment of Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Marin City.  Yet in the 1960s, the school board voted to put black children from Marin City and white children from Sausalito in the same schools. In other words, its intent was to have integrated schools.  But when several local military bases closed in the 1990s, enrollment declined and white flight ensued.  Parents then stepped in to create a new charter school in Sausalito, which remains a gem.

Nevertheless, if Becerra persists in his lawsuit, he runs the risk of the community seceding to form its own even tinier school district.  That has happened in Gardendale, Alabama, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Memphis, Tennessee.  I grant that Sausalito is far more progressive than these other three places, but there’s always the possibility of parents becoming angry and frustrated enough to do so.

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4 Replies to “De facto segregation not school board responsibility”

  1. Reading newspaper accounts, the history of these schools is confusing. It looks like there was a mostly white neighborhood public school and a mostly minority neighborhood public school + then the school system lost some enrollment and combined the two neighborhood public schools + then the higher-SES parents created a charter school + the charter school was much more popular — particularly with the higher-SES parents — than the neighborhood public school + the school system mismanaged/underfunded the neighborhood public school + by early 2019 pretty much all the functional parents had opted for the charter over the neighborhood public school, leaving the neighborhood public school badly under-enrolled and with more minority/fewer white kids than the charter school.

    From what I can tell, this sounds less like racially-motivated state action and more like the school system being responsive to the higher-SES parents (who, although majority white/Asian included many blacks/Hispanics) while being dismissive of the lower-SES parents — in other words, the govt favored the affluent/well-educated/politically-organized parents and disfavored the low-income/uneducated/politically weak parents.

    Rather than suing the school system for racial discrimination, perhaps the state could/should have taken over the small local school system temporarily on the ground that the small local school system was doing such a bad job of running the neighborhood school.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: The school board’s intent was to integrate the district. But due to circumstances beyond its control, enrollment shrank and segregation increased. I don’t think this was the result of the board’s favoring one group over another. That’s not the case in the South, where parents wanted no part of integration and put pressure to secede from the large district and form their own.

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  3. But what caused the creation of the charter and what caused the charter to be so much more popular than the neighborhood school? Seems like the school system should have refused to create the charter. There were not enough kids to support two separate schools.

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  4. Labor Lawyer: The board likely was responding to the wishes of parents who wanted a charter school. I don’t think it’s fair to assume the board was favoring white affluent parents because charter schools are very popular with disadvantaged black parents.

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