Delaware Lawyer Fall 2002
REDLINING LEARNERS: DELAWARE’S NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS ACT
THE NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS ACT VIOLATES FEDERAL REGULATIONS IMPLEMENTING TITLE VI OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT In 2000, the Delaware legislature enacted the Neighborhood Schools Act, which requires every school district in the state to assign students to schools closest to their residences. If this legislation is implemented solely on the basis of geography, it is inevitable that the students residing in Wilmington will attend racially segregated schools. Ninety percent of the city’s students are African-Americans or Latinos and high levels of residential segregation persist in Wilmington. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”17 Although Title VI bars only intentional discrimination, the regulations promulgated pursuant to the statute expressly prohibit actions that have a disparate impact on groups protected by the law, even when those actions are not intentionally discriminatory. The Supreme Court has consistently affirmed the validity of these regulations.
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CONCLUSION The Neighborhood Schools Act is an unlawful obstacle to the goal of equal educational opportunities. It will reinforce racial and economic isolation by disregarding the effects of residential segregation. Proponents of neighborhood schools did not consider the legacy of racial segregation that is reflected in current residential patterns. They erroneously assumed that families have exercised a choice in deciding where they reside and, therefore, a choice as to which schools their children will attend. This reasoning is flawed since African-Americans and Latinos, particularly those with lower incomes, do not have the range of residential choices that are available to similarly situated whites. Their choices have always been constrained by discriminatory practices. Delaware’s Neighborhood Schools Act will have an effect similar to the one that prompted the court to rule against the state nearly ; thirty years ago in Evans v. Buchanan. The court’s ruling in S Evans was premised on a state law I that purported to be race neutral, but in reality, treated AfricanAmerican students in Wilmington differently, and less favorably, than similarly situated whites residing in other localities. The Neighborhood Schools Act has a similar effect: the law’s attendance limitations will treat Wilmington’s minority students less favorably than students in other areas in the state
Researchers have consistently found that students in many urban schools are subjected to substandard and deteriorating facilities, racial isolation and concentrated poverty