Getting to the Roots of School Segregation: The Challenges of Housing Remedies in Northern School Desegregation Litigation
Posted: 3 Oct 2008
The critical relationship between racially identifiable neighborhoods in northern cities and school segregation has been recognized by scholars, lawyers and courts for decades. However, despite this close interrelationship, civil rights attorneys have been frustrated in attempts to gain the courts' approval of combined school and housing remedies. This essay seeks to illustrate the challenges of winning housing remedies in northern school desegregation cases: (1) proving causation in combined school and housing claims is difficult and requires more resources than most plaintiffs are willing or able to expend; and (2) the Justice Department remains either unable or unwilling to tackle both issues at once. Despite these obstacles, evidence of residential segregation has still historically played a significant strategic role. This essay highlights the Indianapolis Public Schools litigation, U.S. v. Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, as an example of how litigators were able to gain an interdistrict school desegregation plan which included a significant, though limited, housing remedy. As the isolation and re-segregation of urban school districts in northern cities continues, it is essential that the Justice Department and civil rights organizations re-examine the critical relationship between housing and schools. This article is also available at the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse.
Keywords: school desegregation, civil rights litigation, U.S. v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Public Schools, housing, segregation, civil rights, Milliken v. Bradley, housing remedies, Justice Department, Civil Rights Division
JEL Classification: J70, K00, K10, K19, K39, K40, K41, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation