Legal Issues for Diverse and Equitable Schools

Authored by: Laura Mcneal , Mark A. Gooden

Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Equity and Diversity

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415657457
eBook ISBN: 9780203076934
Adobe ISBN: 9781135128432


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For more than 250 years, Americans have embraced a vision of democracy in which all citizens understand, value, and actively engage in civic and political life. At the cornerstone of democracy lies equality and social justice. This notion is heavily embedded within our nation's moral fabric and founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence which states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” To this end, various laws and policies have emerged to promote educational equity within our public schools, beginning with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case, which crystallized the need for change in educational practice, especially for poor, African American children. Prior to the 1954 Brown case, educational policy was left almost completely to the unfettered discretion of state and local governments. After Brown, state and local governments in the South resisted the change to such a degree that the Supreme Court revisited the issue with Brown II, in which they commissioned district courts to carry our school desegregation “with all deliberate speed.” Thus, while this historic case served as a catalyst for newfound activism by the federal government to promote diverse and equitable learning environments, several scholars revealed the daunting reality of its success by examining the effects of the decision 50 years later and identifying major gaps in practices to educate children of color living in high poverty, urban areas (Bell, 2004; Gooden, 2004; McNeal, 2009; Milner & Howard, 2004; Tillman, 2004). Indices of the gross disparities in schooling contexts are evident in rural schools where 35% of students in high poverty schools belonged to a minority group in comparison to 9% of low poverty schools (Lippman, Burns, & McArthur, 2004).

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