Joe Biden

Here’s How Trump Is Making It Harder to Integrate Schools

This summer, integrated schools heated up as a campaign issue when Kamala Harris called out Joe Biden for his 1970s stance on mandated busing as a means to desegregate schools. But today, the hurdles to creating integrated schools can sometimes be more subtle.

Take, for example, this headline: “A New Trump Rule Could Weaken a Civil Rights Era Housing Discrimination Law.”

Pretty wonky headline—and it sounds like they’re updating something old, so maybe that’s good, right? And could anything that sounds more irrelevant to education be uttered? Probably not. But the proposal actually makes it harder to address discrimination, so it’s not good, and it could have a big impact on education, especially for integrated schools. Stay with me for a minute while I explain.

Let’s start with a bit of background. The Trump administration just issued a proposed rule that would make it harder to bring successful housing discrimination complaints under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Currently there are two ways to prove race discrimination: that a housing-related entity (an apartment complex, a mortgage lender, etc.) intentionally discriminated by race, which can be very hard to prove; or that a housing policy, program or practice had an unjustifiably disparate impact on people of color, which can be proven by analyzing both the effects of a housing policy and whether a legitimate, non-discriminatory need for the policy exists, despite the disparate impact.

The Trump administration’s new rule would severely curtail those “disparate impact” discrimination claims under the FHA. If you can’t show something, then legally, it doesn’t exist. By constricting this key avenue to demonstrating discrimination, the new rule would create the ultimate disappearing act for many claims of discrimination. POOF! A whole lot of housing discrimination has magically disappeared.

Two ways this affects education

First, the FHA is a bulwark against housing discrimination and the increasing housing segregation that results from that discrimination, and segregated housing yields segregated public schools. And if you’re thinking, “Didn’t that Brown v. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision take care of school segregation?"...think again.

Take a look at Charlotte, North Carolina, and other places where earlier, significant progress on the integration of public schools—resulting from post-Brown court desegregation orders—has now evaporated, where school segregation has often become as bad as or worse than before Brown was decided.

Second, the “disparate impact” legal approach now under attack in housing will likely also come under attack in education, through threatened proposed changes to long-standing (pre-Obama) regulations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act—regulations which prohibit “disparate impact” discrimination in public and publicly-funded education. 

What does it mean to have “disparate impact” discrimination in education? Such discrimination could cause many more children of color to be suspended than white children who misbehave the same way, or it could result in far fewer children of color attending schools that offer Calculus and AP science classes, or it could mean profound resource inequities for schools with many children of color, compared to schools with primarily white children.

Here's What You Can Do

  • Now that these proposed FHA regulations restricting disparate impact have been issued, send in and get every single person you know (your siblings, your cousins, your colleagues, your Facebook friends, etc.) to send in comments opposing the proposed changes to the FHA regulations, using this link
  • To stay plugged in, follow @Ed_CivilRights on Twitter and Education Civil Rights Alliance for further alerts on disparate impact and education discrimination against children of color, and other key issues relating to fighting discrimination against our kids.

You can make a difference, but you have to take action strategically.

Don’t worry—we’ll help.

Miriam Rollin
Miriam A. Rollin, J.D. directs the national Education Civil Rights Alliance and serves as an attorney for the National Center for Youth Law.

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