- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

American schools became more racially segregated in the 1990s, according to a new Harvard University study.

In the past decade, "racial and ethnic segregation [in public schools] continued to intensify," the study by Harvard scholars Gary Orfield and Nora Gordon found.

Schools in the South are the most integrated, according to the study, while New York is the state with the most segregated schools, with the fewest black students attending majority white schools and the highest level of "intense segregation" for Hispanic students.

Nearly half a century after the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional, "the South remains the only region of the country where whites typically attend schools with significant numbers of blacks."

The Harvard study used a variety of statistics to measure trends of students of different races attending the same schools.

According to the study:

• "Whites on average attend schools where less than 20 percent of the students are from other racial and ethnic groups," while "blacks and Latinos attend schools with 53 percent to 55 percent students of their own group."

• States in the South and West "have far higher concentrations of nonwhite students than the rest of the nation."

• The West is the only region where Hispanic students outnumber blacks. "In the West, there are four Latino students for every African American."

Changes in population are a major factor in shifting school enrollments. "[B]etween 1968 and 1998, the number of black and Latino students in the nation's public schools increased by 5.8 million; while the number of white students declined by 5.6 million," the Harvard study said.

Whites were 81 percent of U.S. students in 1968, but just 63 percent in 1998.The South — where 55 percent of students are white — "is moving steadily backwards" in terms of racial integration in schools, Mr. Orfield and Miss Gordon reported.

"The South as a region is not experiencing a sudden resegregation but one that is substantial and has been steady now for a decade," they wrote.

Still, Southern schools remain far more integrated than other regions. Less than a third of black students in the South attend what the report called "intensely segregated schools" — those with 90 percent or more minority enrollment — compared with 50.9 percent of black students in the Northeast and 45.5 percent in the Midwest.

In New York only 13.8 percent of black students attend majority white schools, according to the Harvard study. By comparison, in Alabama, 31.4 percent of black students attend mostly white schools.

The typical Hispanic student in New York attends a school with only 18.1 percent white enrollment, and 58.8 percent of the state's Hispanic students attend "intensely segregated schools," according to the study. In Texas, by comparison, 45.7 percent of Hispanics attend what the Harvard study calls "intensely segregated schools."

Nationwide, segregation in-creased for both black and Hispanic students during the 1990s, the study found. The proportion of black students attending "intensely segregated schools" increased from 32.5 percent in the 1986-87 school year to 36.5 percent in the 1998-99 school year.

The Harvard report, titled "Schools More Separate" (online at www.law.harvard.edu/civilrights ), targets the role of the Supreme Court in ending federal desegregation efforts.

In the wake of key Supreme Court decisions during the tenure of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, federal courts have terminated decades-old desegregation plans in Charlotte, N.C., Rockford, Ill., Prince George's County and elsewhere.

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