Schools Committee Voices Support of Integrated Schools

The Schools Committee of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race would like to reaffirm its commitment to the Intentional Integration Initiative, and its expectation that the current Board of Education and SOMSD Administration will do the work necessary to make the initiative a success for all families.

We acknowledge the burden that switching schools places on families, and encourage the District to prioritize and implement a comprehensive Transportation Plan in the coming budget cycle. We also encourage the District to correct the inequity it created on January 31st by providing transportation services only to those families who filed a petition with the Department of Education. We urge the Administration to immediately provide transportation to all children who live along routes determined to be hazardous in the settlement.

We also want to remind our community of the benefits of integration for all children. Students of all races who attend integrated schools are more likely to develop positive attitudes toward people of different races and ethnic backgrounds. Empathy and reduced racial prejudice are best fostered in diverse classrooms. Students from integrated schools are more likely to choose integrated colleges, integrated communities to live in, and to have friends from other racial groups and ethnicities. Everyone benefits when the circle of people and experiences is broadened.                      

Furthermore, children who learn in racially/ethnically mixed environments master tools for living in the real world. They are more likely to become global citizens with a view of the world that is broad and inclusive. There is also evidence that their very problem-solving abilities become more flexible, their thinking more complex and nuanced.

Students in segregated schools will not have the opportunity to learn the personal histories of students who do not share the same racial and ethnic background as themselves. This is perhaps the most important way to break down stereotypes. Eliminating stereotypes increases learning opportunities, cognitive capabilities, and the ability to interact productively with others. As the workplace becomes more global and diverse, productivity on the job depends increasingly on collaborative problem solving. All of these are reasons why we must work to desegregate our classrooms as well as our school buildings.

Integration has long been one of our two towns’ most commonly expressed values. If we do indeed truly value diversity, then we as a community must stand together for the greater good, in spite of personal inconvenience. We remind our neighbors that adding parent choice into the process typically favors those who are already most advantaged. And we sincerely hope that the Board and District Administration will not concede to the demands of those lobbying for choice in where their children attend elementary school, as we know that increased parent choice has historically led to increased segregation in American education.

We encourage community members to re-listen to the “Nice White Parents” podcast series from The New York Times and Serial, and to watch our own 2021 event, “Lessons Learned from Nice White Parents”.

Choosing to support integrated schools is perhaps the most meaningful way parents can act out their values and thus support equity and reduce racial disparities in our community.

Presented by Carol Barry-Austin and Jocelyn Ryan, Co-chairs of the Schools Committee, on behalf of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race,  March 13, 2023


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