School Integration: Uniting a Broken System

School integration is more than just forcing kids from various neighborhoods to go to school together, it is about making a broken school system whole. It is about exposing kids to another world that they would otherwise never get to be a part of. So why is school integration still such a hot button issue?

In the 1970s Southern California schools did not reflect the diversity of the city as a whole. According to the article written by The UCLA Civil Rights project Divided We Fail, Southern California was and is home to the largest population of Latino, Asian, and African Americans in the state. Despite this diversity LAUSD was demanded to implement an integration system for its schools and purposed forced busing across the board. While this was never put into effect, the attempt to integrate schools in Southern California is still felt today.

Growing up I attended schools in the San Fernando Valley, and without being fully aware of it, I was participating in school integration. I was never bused, however, in elementary school I lived in Panorama City and went to a public school called Castlebay Lane in Porter Ranch.

Proposed school bus routes mapped out in attempt to enforce school segregation in Southern California.

I remember waking up around 6 a.m. and my brother driving me to a school that was about 10 miles away. At the time I was so young I did not understand why I went to school there, rather than the school five minutes away from my home. As I got older my mother would inform me how hard it was to get me into that school. She had to have her friend who lived in porter ranch vouch for me at the offices to let just let me in.

Section 1 highlighted on this map shows the part of the San Fernando Valley I grew up and went to school in.

As I went to school there I became more aware that I was the only one of about 5 Latinos in class. Most of my classmates were Asian American which was very different from the heavily Latino populated neighborhood I was living in.

School Demographic Make-Up of the northern San Fernando Valley from 1980–1981 (Ovaitt Library Archives)

For me integration worked, and can still work today. Allowing kids the opportunity to interact on a daily basis with people who they would otherwise not interact with at home. Integration offers a chance to explore various cultures, learning practices, and teaching practices.

Student’s overall performance in integrated schools does not just work because of race. It works because the inclusivity that comes along with a diverse community and the quality of education given in those schools.

That’s why it worked for me, the reason my parents worked so hard to to put me in the schools I went to despite how far they were was because of the quality of education. That chance is something that shouldn’t be denied to students just because of an invisible boundary.