Expert on segregation to speak Thursday at IU

“Brown at 60,” a lecture series last fall at the IU Maurer School of Law, used legal and historical analysis to explore how America backed away from its commitment to school desegregation in the decades following the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Look for UCLA scholar Gary Orfield to tell the other part of the story – how a retreat from integration has damaged schools and harmed students – at an IU School of Education symposium Thursday.

Gary Orfield

Gary Orfield

Orfield, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, will be the keynote speaker for the daylong Martha McCarthy Education Law and Policy Institute, sponsored by the School of Education. He will speak at 1:45 p.m. in Willkie Auditorium.

Orfield has been sounding the alarm for years at the ways in which U.S. schools have become increasingly segregated by race and poverty after reaching a high-water mark of integration in the 1970s. The Civil Rights Project has produced reports detailing resegregation in states and regions of the country, along with research on racially disparate school discipline and unequal access to college.

The center cites evidence that integration of schools was in fact associated with improved educational achievement during the few years when it was tried. And Orfield argues that isolating students of color and poor children in segregated schools makes it less likely that schools can close the achievement gap.

“Segregation is an educational and social disease,” he wrote in the Huffington Post. “Sometimes its impacts are ameliorated for a while in some places, but the broad relationship is clear and strong. Isolation by poverty, language and ethnicity threatens the future opportunities and mobility of students and communities excluded from competitive schools, and increasingly threatens the future of a society where young people are not learning how to live and work effectively across the deep lines of race and class in our region.”

The daylong McCarthy Institute also will include a panel discussion on Indiana school law issues, breakout sessions on education reform, free-speech issues for students, special education and technology, a panel on LGBT issues and a showcase of student research. The day will conclude with a barbecue sponsored by the Indiana University School Administrators Association.

The annual institute on education law and policy was named in 2013 for Martha McCarthy, a longtime IU School of Education professor and an expert on school law. More information, including a conference schedule and details on free registration, is available online.

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