A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

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Image by Paradox 56 via Flickr Creative Commons

In recent months, the Fresno Chapter of the ACLU has become involved in the struggle by community members to have a middle school built in Southwest Fresno. A funny thing happened on the way to that new school, which the school district now plans to build. We became thoroughly confused.

First, we discovered that the ACLU has a position in favor of “equal and integrated education” with local schools spread throughout a school district. But the ACLU is opposed to “neighborhood schools.” Why? It turns out that “neighborhood schools” is a code term for re-segregating public schools.

Then we discovered that, except for a few years in the 1970s when there was widespread busing, southwest Fresno middle school students and only southwest students were involuntarily bused out of their neighborhood to go to school. Now we had a discrimination issue, and southwest Fresno should have a middle school.

Then we discovered that in addition to bussing southwest Fresno middle school students, the school district depended on a system of magnet schools to integrate its campuses. But magnet schools tend to only integrate the statistics. Students remain largely segregated depending on whether they are in the magnet program or the regular program. So we have ended up with statistically integrated campuses and actually segregated schools. Confused yet?

Then we discovered that, basically, the federal government no longer encourages the integration of our schools. The Roberts Court has decided that the way to solve racism is to turn a blind eye toward race, and a school district cannot bus students, based on race, to integrate its schools. So if you have four schools in town and the first is 100 percent White and the second is 100 percent African American and the third is 100 percent Asian and the fourth is 100 percent Hispanic, turn a blind eye toward race and it doesn’t matter—unless the segregation is caused by the government.

Of course, everyone is in favor of neighborhood schools. As parents, we tend to pick a place to live based on the fact that our kids will be able to walk a few blocks to a good school. Should the school district then say, “Tough, we’re putting your kid on a bus to go across town to school?”

We will only have integrated schools if we have integrated neighborhoods. We will only have integrated neighborhoods if we have equal economic opportunity. Every newspaper article about the current depression (the recession is over, so this must be a depression) makes it clear that there is not equal economic opportunity for people of all races and nationalities. So how do we achieve an integrated society? We didn’t find the answer on the way to a new southwest Fresno school.

On September 13, the Fresno Chapter had its annual membership meeting at which the members elected a board for the coming year. Subsequently, the board met to choose its officers. Here is the new lineup—Chair: Anthony Yrigollen, Vice Chair: Donna Hardina, Secretary: Kathy Mitchell, Treasurer: Georgia Williams, Field Rep: Janet Spinosa, Alternate Field Rep: Carlos Casarez, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator: Bill Simon and Assistant Volunteer Coordinator: Steve Malm. Additional Board members are Brian Baker, Roger Brown, Catherine Campbell, Phil Connelly, Leonel Flores, Jean Hays and Dan Yaseen.

We are betting that Anthony is the youngest chair in the Affiliate and probably in the country.