Virginia Commonwealth University played host Wednesday night, March 13, to the opening of "Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Conference on Race, Class, Opportunity and School Boundaries in the Richmond Region."
It has been 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the consolidation of public schools in the Richmond-Metropolitan area to achieve racial integration.
Today, one in every three black students in the Richmond-Petersburg region attends a school where 90 percent of the student body is black and 75 percent poor.
Almost 10 percent of the black students in our region attend schools where the student body is 99 percent black and 85 percent low-income.
Former University of Virginia professor, and co-director of the UCLA "Civil Rights Project" Gary Orfield gave the opening address kicking off the conference to an audience of over 250 people.
In his opening remarks, Orfield pointed out that while schools are becoming more racially diverse, segregation in many school districts is still an issue that needs to be resolved. Orfield said,
“Segregation is almost never just by race — it’s almost always by race and poverty. Desegregation was never about sitting next to whites. … It was about getting better opportunities for children."
The conference continues today at the University of Richmond with an examination of potential solutions to be found in the quest to end segregation in our public schools.
The conference started just hours after the release of a report documenting the high correlation between racial segregation an poverty in Richmond area school districts.
Called “Miles to Go: A Report on School Segregation in Virginia, 1989-2010,” the report shows that Chesterfield County and Colonial Heights are among a growing number of school districts that have achieved racial diversity.
The report also cites evidence showing that while racial diversity in the public schools has increased, there are still many areas of the state where segregation by race and income is worsening within school districts.
The conference and the report are attempting to document the damage that can result from isolation of students by race, class and even language between school districts and within schools.
Another issue being discussed is the high number of disciplinary actions against black students, and the disproportionately high rates of out-of-school suspensions for black students in Henrico County Public Schools.
The consequences of segregated schools are harmful to white students as well blacks and Latinos, Orfield said.
“There is no way you can go to segregated schools and learn to work effectively in a multiracial society,"