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Brown at 60: A note from AFC's Executive Director

05.15.2014 |  This Saturday, May 17, marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared that separate is inherently unequal in public education. The words of Chief Justice Earl Warren ring as true today as they did in 1954: “In these days it is doubtful that any child can be reasonably expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

As we celebrate this great moment in our history, we also recognize that we still have much work left to do to ensure equal educational opportunity for all children. In recent decades, schools have become more segregated, not less, and a recent study found that New York State has the most segregated schools in the nation.

children in a classroom
School integration, 1955. Barnard School, Washington, D.C.
U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.

As we see every day in our work at Advocates for Children, the promise of Brown remains unfulfilled. For example:

  • Starting at age 4, children of color are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline—though research has yielded no evidence that they have higher rates of misbehavior than their white peers. 
  • Black children are disproportionately referred for special education services and disproportionately classified as emotionally disturbed or intellectually disabled. 
  • In New York City, less than three in five Black and Hispanic students graduate high school in four years—a rate about 20 percentage points lower than that of white students.

We’re proud to be part of the ongoing struggle for educational equity and racial justice, whether it’s by helping individual families access the services their children need and deserve; filing litigation to improve education law and policy; pushing for positive approaches to school discipline that keep kids in school; or breaking down barriers that prevent immigrant parents from participating in their children’s education.

Thank you for joining us in the fight to protect every child’s right to learn.

kim sweet signature
Kim Sweet
Executive Director