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Are America's Schools Still Segregated? (page 2)

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Updated on Jan 14, 2011

Still, opponents of desegregation say integration for the sake of diversification is wrong. Lino Graglia, law professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a vocal opponent of desegregation, is possibly best known for his 1976 book Disaster by Decree: The Supreme Court Decisions on Race and the Schools. He argues that mandatory desegregation leads to white flight, specifically of the "middle and upper classes," which accelerates urban deterioration and racial separation in society.

Graglia explains that the 1968 Supreme Court ruling to start busing kids to other schools for the sake of integration was “a terribly mistaken and destructive policy imposed by the courts.” He explains that the plan for desegregation was only meant to bus kids for one year, to turn the problem of “separation” around. “But as it worked out in practice,” Gaglia says, “you could only stop the busing for racial balance when there were no longer any whites to be balanced. It would only stop when you had in effect driven the whites out of the school system—when you converted the entire school system.”

In addition being ineffective, Graglia argues that the policy was dishonest. According to Graglia, the result of the Supreme Court’s Brown ruling was a failure. “Ending segregation turned out to be something of a disappointment to the civil rights enthusiasts. Segregation ended, but separation continued.” He explains that the courts wanted to correct the situation, and in order to do that they had to mandate integration. “Suddenly it was not enough to end segregation,” Graglia says. “The courts couldn’t say, ‘Well Brown prohibited race discrimination to segregate, but now we’re going to require race discrimination to integrate.’ It’s a self-defeating policy. It was totally dishonest.”

What about integration when it comes to ability? Here too there’s been a lot of debate. Some argue that having children with large variances in ability in the same class puts too much pressure on the teacher. Federal law, however, says to mainstream as much as possible. The federal statute that speaks to this is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). “The main mandate of IDEA is that students are to be placed in classes with the least restrictive environment,” Darden says. “Students are required to have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) tailored to their needs after an assessment has been done.”

“Special education is a great blessing for the United States,” Orfield says. “It created a right for students who would have been excluded from school.”

Still, he says, there are problems with the system. “What we see in our research is a tremendous overplacement of black males,” Orfield says. “And that’s a big problem because it’s very hard to transfer back into the mainstream classrooms.”

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