Integrated Schools, Segregated Classrooms

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NBC Nightly News
Brian Williams/Sara James
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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A Montclair, NJ school board official moves to end 'de facto segregation' in district classrooms: classes made up mostly of black students and of white students -- even though the school as a whole is integrated and diverse.



"Integrated Schools, Segregated Classrooms." Sara James, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 17 Sep. 1994. NBC Learn. Web. 21 January 2015.


James, S. (Reporter), & Williams, B. (Anchor). (1994, September 17). Integrated Schools, Segregated Classrooms. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Integrated Schools, Segregated Classrooms" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 09/17/1994. Accessed Wed Jan 21 2015 from NBC Learn:


Integrated Schools, Segregated Classrooms


In FOCUS this evening, schools and segregation. In the '90s, the struggle to achieve racial balance is running into barriers the civil rights laws of the '60s do not address. NBC's Sara James has our report.


The first day of school in Montclair, New Jersey, a community proud of its diversity. The student population is almost evenly split along racial lines. But when David Herron, a parent and member of the school board's Human Relations Council, looked into the classrooms, he was disturbed by what he found.

Mr. DAVID HERRON: Last year we found, surprisingly, some classes were 80 percent African-American, 85 percent white. We also found classes that were 100 percent African-American with no white students in them whatsoever.

JAMES: Segregated classes were found in the middle schools and the high school. In fact, an internal memo discussing the high school referred to a pattern amounting to "De facto segregation." Many parents, black and white, were surprised.

Ms. LOIS TIGAY (Parent): Children get grouped into black and white or rich and poor or achieving, nonachieving, and they don't get looked at as individuals.

JAMES: Forced to confront the controversy, the Montclair School Board imposed guidelines this year aimed at improving racial balance.

Montclair is one of a number of communities nationwide in which an integrated school system is being faulted for having segregated classrooms. And critics here contend the school system's reforms don't go far enough. This is an advanced history class at the high school, predominantly white. This is a remedial math class, disproportionately minority students. Two extremes. But proof that while change has been called for, it is slow in coming. Montclair High School principal Elaine Davis says the school system will do whatever is necessary to ensure true integration.

But some parents fear that the reforms could go too far, that academic achievement could be compromised in the pursuit of numeric equality.

Ms. SWEAT: Do we eliminate classes of curriculum because we can't get a balanced classroom? Should we designate someone to sit down and count the number of children in each class? I don't think that's necessary.

Mr. WILLIAM LIBRARA (Montclair Schools Superintendent): It is one thing to numerically deal with issues of race and diversity. It's quite another to make sure that access, performance, opportunity is equally available to children.

JAMES: This school district on the outskirts of New York City is small, just 5700 students, but the issue being debated here is all too familiar nationwide, the latest chapter in the battle for school desegregation that has lasted more than 40 years.

Sara James, NBC News, Montclair, New Jersey.