EXPERT REPORT OF THOMAS J. SUGRUE
Gratz, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75321 (E.D. Mich.)
Grutter, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75928 (E.D. Mich.)
IX. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
Racial homogeneity is the norm in American primary and secondary schools. American children are unlikely to encounter members of other racial groups in the classroom. Put differently, American primary and secondary schools are seldom diverse: most students go to schools with other students like themselves. By 1980, 17 of the nation's 20 largest cities had predominantly minority school districts. Most of them are surrounded by overwhelmingly white suburban school districts. As a consequence, University of Michigan demographer Reynolds Farley has shown, these public schools are "almost as racially segregated as those which were constitutionally permitted before the 1954
Brown decision." 38
Table 8 calculates the number of Hispanic and black students who attend the school of the typical white student in six states with the largest number of freshman applicants to the University of Michigan. Between 1990 and 1995, applicants from these states made up 73 to 75 percent of the applicants to the University of Michigan from the United States. 39 The second column in the table, the percentage of blacks and Hispanics enrolled in all public schools, gives a sense of what the population of a school district would look like were all minorities evenly distributed across all school districts in the state. In these six states, white students attended schools that had far fewer minority students than the percentages enrolled in public schools statewide.
In Michigan, most children attend schools with others like themselves. According to a study prepared for the National School Boards Association, Michigan ranks in the top four states in degree of black/white school segregation, along with New York, Illinois, and New Jersey. During the 1991-92 school year, 58.5 percent of black students in Michigan attended overwhelmingly minority schools (those with student populations that are 90 to 100 percent minority). Nearly four-fifths (79.9 percent) of black students in Michigan attended schools that have majority minority populations. It is striking that far more students are likely to attend racially integrated schools in the Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) than in Michigan. 40
The three-county Detroit area offers a particularly striking example of the lack of diversity in primary and secondary education. A glance at school district enrollment figures for metropolitan Detroit makes clear the lack of diversity in most Detroit area schools (Figure 1). Of the 613,063 students attending public schools in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties, 66.4 percent are white; 29.9 percent are black; 1.7 percent are Hispanic; 0.6 percent are American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut; and 1.9 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander. These students attend school in 83 separate school districts. In 60 of the 83 Detroit area school districts, the black student population is three percent or less; another 7 districts have black student populations under ten percent. Altogether 90.7 percent of Detroit area white students attend schools in these districts. By contrast, districts with large numbers of blacks have very few whites. Eighty-two percent of Detroit-area blacks attend schools in only three nearly all-black school districts -- Detroit, Highland Park, and Inkster. The area's Hispanic population is more dispersed, but more than 50 percent of Detroit-area Hispanics attend schools in two predominantly black school districts, Detroit and Pontiac. Asians and American Indians are scattered throughout the area in very small numbers. While they are over represented in some districts (Asians in Bloomfield Hills, Troy, Novi, and West Bloomfield; American Indians in Gibraltar and Hazel Park), there are no sizeable concentrations of either group in the metropolitan area. 41
Of Metropolitan Detroit's 83 school districts, only two (Mount Clemens and Romulus) come at all close to the three-county area proportion of blacks, Hispanics, and whites. If we compare the racial/ethnic composition of Detroit-area schools to the state as a whole, we find that only five small metropolitan Detroit school districts have black/white ratios approximating those of the state at large (Clintondale, Ferndale, Hamtramck, New Haven, and Van Buren). A total of 3,176 black students and 13,441 white students attend schools in these districts, or 1.8 percent of the three county area's black student population and 3.3 percent of the area's white student population. 42
The Roots of Racial Separation in Education
Racial divisions in metropolitan Detroit schools have a long historical pedigree. In the years
before 1960, Detroit officials maintained patterns of segregation within the school district by redrawing the catchment areas of schools in racially changing areas and by allowing white students to transfer out of schools with growing black populations. Efforts to challenge the patterns of school segregation in Detroit met with intense white opposition, though a small number of white activists fought for racial integration and worked to achieve classroom diversity in the city. In 1960, when the school board, responding to critics of its racial division, introduced a voluntary "open schools" plan that allowed black children to transfer to formerly all-white schools, white parents' groups petitioned for the recall of elected school board members and boycotted classes for three days. Almost no whites participated in the program. 43
Again in 1970, when the Detroit School Board announced a plan for the desegregation of
its high schools, parents supported boycotts of classes and mounted a successful campaign
to recall the four white school board members who supported the plan. 44 Whites also responded by withdrawing their children from Detroit's public schools in huge numbers. In the short period between 1967 and 1978, the Detroit Public School District lost 74 percent of its white students, the second highest rate of white enrollment decline in the public school districts of the nation's twenty largest cities. 45 By 1980, only 14 percent of Detroit public school students were white; in 1990, only 8.4 percent of Detroit public school students were white; in 1994-95, only 6.2 percent of Detroit public school students were white. 46
The racial segregation of Detroit's schools was accompanied by the rapid growth of surrounding suburban school districts. As whites fled to the suburbs, they primarily settled in racially homogeneous communities. As a result, the racial composition of Detroit-area school districts reflects the homogeneity that prevails in most of the communities in the region. The high rate of residential segregation in housing ensures little racial diversity in education.
Also contributing to the racial division of Detroit area schools is the lack of significant programs in Michigan to bring together students across school district lines, as there are in other cities such as Indianapolis, where courts ordered inter-district desegregation, or Boston, Milwaukee, and Saint Louis, all of which have large voluntary inter-district school desegregation programs. Metropolitan Detroit has no voluntary or mandatory inter-district school integration programs. Most suburban residents opposed both inter-district busing and even small-scale voluntary efforts to bring minority students into their schools. 47
Consequences of Divided Education
The consequences of racial disparities in education are far-reaching. Nearly every American child under the age of sixteen attends school; children spend most of their days over nearly three quarters of the year in the classroom; most children forge their most important non-familial relationships among their classmates. The vast majority of white primary and secondary school students have no significant contact with black, Hispanic, or American Indian students in the classroom. The vast majority of African American primary and secondary school students have no significant contact with white students on a daily basis. For more than a half century, specialists on race relations have reminded us that racial separation fosters mutual suspicion and hostility. It allows
stereotypes and myths to flourish, because students lack direct evidence to contradict their erroneous impressions. The racial and ethnic divisions in the United States are reinforced by the American educational system.