On this Monday is the 50th anniversary of the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education. The Supreme Court unanimously made the decision on May 17, 1954. 9-year-old Linda Brown went to Monroe School in Kansas. It was her father, the Reverend Oliver Brown, who was the main plaintiff in Brown vs. Board of Education.
On this day, President Bush spoke at a ceremony in Topeka, Kansas. Monroe Elementary school is the national historic site. President Bush spoke about how after the ruling it still took federal troops and presidential orders to knock down the racism barrier.
The whole case focused on making sure kids weren't separate and unequal. Locally, we dealt with a similar court case that came before the Rockford School District in 1996. That's when the people who care lawsuit was filed. It wasn't a matter of minorities not being able to attend a white school. The Rockford School District went through to eliminate discrimination.
The 1989 re-organization plan of the Rockford School District could have possibly avoided a class action lawsuit. At that time, the board voted to close West High School and make it a middle school. Some said the plan didn't provide equal opportunities on both sides of the river. Current board member Alice Saudargas was part of the People Who Care lawsuit. This lawsuit changed the way the district was run in the 1980’s. Alice says, “Schools on the west side did not have the same resources or were not in the same condition as east side schools.”
The court ordered Rockford Public Schools to change to diversity and equalize the district. The court found that the district had engaged in a pattern of intentional segregation and discrimination on a system wide basis. Alice says, “Unless an outside source came in we would still be where we were in the 80's."
So what does our desegregation report card look like now? Alice says she sees the district still having problems with accountability. We do have a new school superintendent whose first priority is to re-staff our schools. A move that wasn't being made in the 80's when the experienced qualified teachers stayed on the Rockford’s east side.