Statement from Education Law Center Executive Director Robert Kim on the 70th Anniversary of the Landmark School Desegregation Ruling in Brown v. Board of Education

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, one of the most significant civil rights cases in our nation’s history. With the Brown ruling, the Court put an end to state-mandated, racially segregated public education and transformed the legal system and thousands of local leaders into agents for integration rather than enforcers of “separate-but-equal” education. 

And yet, as has been widely documented, the goal of full integration of public schools following Brown has not been realized. While there was undeniable progress integrating schools, particularly from the late 1960s through the 1980s, that progress has been partially reversed. The share of schools intensely segregated by race more than tripled between 1988 and 2016. Rising segregation has been accompanied by inadequate funding of schools attended by students of color and students living in poverty as well as inequitable access to educational opportunities within those schools.

Education Law Center is committed to reversing this trend. We are proud to represent the plaintiffs, along with our co-counsel partners, in two groundbreaking lawsuits: Latino Action Network v. State of New Jersey, challenging the intense school segregation found in communities across New Jersey, and Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota, confronting school segregation in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts.

Both lawsuits assert a simple truth: When students attend highly segregated schools, they do not receive the education, or other rights, guaranteed to them under their state laws. This is just as true 70 years after Brown as the day the decision was issued.

Providing children and young adults with the opportunity to learn among a diverse student population is critical not only for their development and their futures, but for our democracy as a whole.

While we take this occasion to celebrate a landmark ruling and promise of equality, we, as policymakers, advocates, researchers, and members of school communities, must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that American public school students are educated in school communities that are safe, equitable, non-discriminatory, well-funded, and – at long last – integrated. Our students, and our country, deserve no less.

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Sharon Krengel
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