One Oklahoma School District Ahead Of The Curve On School Diversity Plans

Thursday, June 28th 2007, 8:16 pm
By: News On 6

The U.S. Supreme Court hands down a landmark decision on school diversity on Thursday. The nation's highest court struck down two public school integration plans in Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington. Both school districts assigned students to their schools based on race, and the court ruled 5-4 that the policies were unconstitutional. News On 6 education reporter Ashli Sims has been following the Supreme Court's ruling. She reports on how Tulsa schools could be affected.

Tulsa Public Schools anticipated the Supreme Court might rule the way they did on Thursday. That's why they took steps three years ago to eliminate racial quotas at two local magnet schools.

Students rallied, parents spoke and after weeks of debate, the school board decided. The school, ordered by a federal judge to integrate in the 1970s, would no longer have racial quotas. But the district promised it would not be the end of diversity at Booker T. Washington high school and Carver middle school.

"Well it was the right decision then and I am glad to hear that it was consistent with what I hear about the new Supreme Court ruling,” said Matt Livingood with the Tulsa School Board.

School board member Matt Livingood says the district's new policy, which uses geography to achieve racial balance, is working.

Under the quotas Booker T’s student body was 45% white, 44% black, 6% Native American and 3% for both Hispanic and Asian students. The next year, when the district looked at geography not race, the percentage of black students slid two points, while white students remained the same. Last year, black student were down to 41% of the student body, white students were also down slightly to 44%. Hispanic students at Booker T, on the other hand, have doubled since 2003.

For some the numbers are only part of the story. Regina Goodwin says the Supreme Court's ruling is really about neighborhood schools.

"This was an issue with a mother who said she wanted her child to go to the school that was nearest to their home. So for those children who live in the neighborhoods around Carver and Booker T. they too should have the opportunity to go to the school that's nearest their home," Tulsa resident Regina Goodwin said.

Goodwin wants Booker T's magnet program to work like Edison's, part neighborhood school and part admitted magnet program. The district says students who live near Booker T. and Carver already get preferred admission, but unlike Edison they have to meet the requirements.

Officially the district says its policy falls right in line with the Supreme Court ruling, and 60% of Booker T. and Carver students come from north and northwest Tulsa.

Watch the video: Supreme Court Rules Against Integration Plans