Denver Schools Worry About Diversity

In June of this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled to restrict schools across the nation, including Denver Schools, from using race to determine attendance. This decision will limit the integration at many schools across the nation. The decision was split with a five justice majority ruling that school programs in Seattle and Louisville violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to ALL students. Educators in Denver Schools fear that the decision may lead schools to stop efforts to balance the racial mixes within their districts.

This decision will definitely affect the way Denver Schools achieve racial integration. Administrators in Denver Schools are among those in Colorado that use such tools. The Boulder Valley School District, for example, seeks diversity by placing students based on family income. “These policies … are on a stronger footing today than they were yesterday,” said Kevin Welner, a lawyer and director of the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

School districts have a lot of options in trying to build schools that are racially integrated, including targeted recruitment in neighborhoods, or redrawing school-attendance zones. Denver Schools use several criteria when determining school zones and districting; and one of those criteria is race. Students are sometimes bussed further from their homes to achieve racial diversity and avoid segregation. Some education experts within the Denver Schools feel that they may abandon race-conscious policies because of this decision. Administrators say that race is used to target students and move them to other Denver Schools where their needs can be better met, and so racial diversity can be achieved. Denver Schools feel that the decision has left them little room to maneuver and achieve their goals.

The delicate balance between justice and diversity is a hot issue nationwide. Instances where white students have been denied entrance into magnet programs because of their skin color initiated the court cases. Currently, Denver Schools’ representatives use race and racial density within areas of their district to decide where to build schools. Their goal is to bring enriched magnet programs, and some well-educated families, into inner-city neighborhoods.

Some within the Denver Schools have voiced concerns that students may be the ones who end up getting shortchanged if race is not a factor. They are voicing concerns that their children will be forced to attend schools within their neighborhoods, instead of being allowed to attend more racially diverse schools where the quality of education, educators and administrators may be higher. Others feel that it may force schools systems across the nation, and within Denver Schools, to make sure schools are equally staffed, supervised and supported so that all children will receive an equal education.

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