Challenging Public School Resegregation: The Use of Small-Scale Social Movements to Preserve the Promise of Brown

Open Access
Adair, Suzanne C.
Graduate Program:
Educational Theory and Policy
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 15, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Gerald K Letendre, Committee Chair
  • Dana Lynn Mitra, Committee Member
  • Dr Sean Reardon, Committee Member
  • Dr Dena Swanson, Committee Member
  • desegregation
  • resegregation
  • neighborhood schools
This study examined the use of small-scale social movements to resist current trends toward public school resegregation. Specifically, this research examined the process which took place within one community as they sought to respond to a neighborhood schools law after the termination of their long-standing desegregation plan. Utilizing participant interviews with parents, educators and community leaders, the study identifies the conditions under which it is possible to engender wide spread community support for the continuation of a student assignment plan that maintains racial and economic diversity within schools throughout the district. Several themes emerged from the study which explain why local residents either favored or opposed neighborhood schools; and specifically how their level of activism contributed to the community’s ability to maintain their current system of busing. Results indicate that for those who opposed neighborhood schools, primary concerns centered on issues of equity and opportunities for diversity, while neighborhood school supporters emphasized community building and increased levels of parental involvement. Additionally, the combination of visionary leadership, strategically developed coalitions, and the engagement of residents’ collective sense of responsibility led to increased levels of community empowerment and activism. Results from this study should be useful to other school districts facing similar challenges to their current desegregation plans.