Discrimination, 2010 Style?
Is history repeating itself in Denver Public Schools (DPS)? Has the Board of Education committed similar grievous errors in the manner it treats a particular group of citizens and the schools they attend? An assessment by Chungmei Lee of the Harvard Civil Rights Project published in 2006 concludes that since the district returned to neighborhood schools in 1995 DPS administrators and the board of education have acted in ways that have contributed significantly to the re-segregation of DPS. Willful or not, DPS efforts such as the reconfiguring of North High School, Lake Middle School and creating a market for charter schools have failed. In the process, the requests and interests of students and parents, largely Latino, are being ignored by DPS in a way eerily familiar to this retired teacher to late 1960s DPS actions. As then, actions by the district have resulted in increased re-segregation for Latino students. More Latino students have diminishing contact with other ethnic groups. Scores of studies, including the assessment by Lee, clearly reveal that segregation results in inequity for students from impoverished backgrounds, in particular for people of color. In 1969, a group of Denver families, principally from Park Hill, sued DPS for deliberate segregation of Denver Public Schools. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling that found for the plaintiffs. The court ruled that the effect of the district’s actions deliberately placed students in segregated schools. In 1995, when the court order was ended, DPS returned to neighborhood schools, most of which reverted to segregated schools because of housing patterns. Since that time, segregation in DPS has increased and at certain schools more so than others. The surge in Latino population coupled with the migration of whites to the suburbs has accelerated this trend. In 1970, DPS still had a majority population of whites. By 1980, the district had become a majority minority school district. By circa 2000, the district’s student population was majority Latino. Yet, only three of the seven board of education members are Latinos, Theresa Pena, Arturo Jimenez and Andrea Merida, just elected in November, 2009. Jimenez and Merida represent northwest and southwest where, at least, a preponderance of Latino students attend school.