Fault Lines: Segregation in Los Angeles Schools

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Angelin Aguirre is a seventh grader at Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights. Hollenbeck is 99 percent Latino – a segregated school. (Jolie Myers/Press Play)

It’s approximately 8,000,000 degrees in Boyle Heights, but the students at Hollenbeck Middle School don’t seem to mind. They bop around Suzanne Gindin’s music class, periodically strumming guitars or shouting to classmates across the room. Ms. Gindin is waving her arms around, attempting to calm the seventh graders and launch into the day’s lesson. Easier said than done.

Hollenbeck is almost entirely Latino – the definition of a segregated school. Sixty years after Brown vs. Board of Education declared that segregation was unconstitutional, Los Angeles schools are as segregated as ever.

Which means Ms. Gindin’s students are isolated, not just racially, but economically as well. And here’s what that means for the kids:

Los Angeles is one of the most segregated large cities in the country. So – no surprise – the Los Angeles Unified School District is one of the most segregated school systems in the country. A new study out by UCLA measured just how segregated California and Los Angeles schools are. Key findings:

  • Latino children are more segregated in California than any other state in the nation.
  • Los Angeles was the first major city to abandon its desegregation plan.
  • Latino children on average attend schools that are 75 percent poor.
  • Black children are more isolated than ever before. As the Latino population continues to grow, black children have become the minority in disadvantaged schools that are majority Latino.
  • Black and Latino children are heavily concentrated in schools with lower performance scores (API scores).
  • The most segregated school districts in California are in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas.

As part of our series Fault Lines, we visited schools, talked to parents and consulted experts on how we got to this point in Los Angeles. How six decades after the Supreme Court ruled that separate could never be equal, we’re more divided than ever before.

Listen to the radio version of this story below and then take to the comments to share your stories and thoughts on school segregation.