60 years after Brown v Board of Education, a school fights for diversity

BROOKLYN, New York - When Sofia Lavion arrived for her first day of sixth grade at Brooklyn's Park Slope Collegiate, she noticed something different.

"In this school I see a lot of blacks and more Hispanic people," Lavion told CBS News. "I was happy for the fact that this school wasn't segregated. I hate segregation."

Decades after the landmark Supreme Court decision that said "separate is not equal," studies show segregation is widespread.

Sixth through twelfth graders attend the school in what was once a minority neighborhood. For the last 10 years, fewer than one percent of the kids were white. The neighborhood changed - it's now predominantly white.

So the school's principal Jill Bloomberg worked to diversify by reaching out to local parents. This past year, the school welcomed 10 white students into its sixth grade class.

"Integration doesn't happen on its own in our society," said Bloomberg. "As a system our schools are incredibly segregated and I had been hoping that if you build it, they will come."

Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in public schools. But, decades later, studies show segregation is still widespread.

Brooklyn's Park Slope Collegiate made a push to increase its diversity

Students like Lavion crave diversity.

"When you're around your same skin, your same type you don't really learn anything about the outside world," said Lavion. "But when you're mixed with people, you're mixed with people that can teach you things that you'd never know if everyone was the same."

"It's kinda dumb segregation because we're basically all the same," said Nyah Dias, who counts Lavion as more than a classmate. "We're good friends. I never make fun of her, she never makes fun of me because of our race."

Teachers union head sees "de facto segregation" in schools

In the past 30 years, diversity in American schools has dropped. A classroom of 30 will typically consist of 22 white students and only eight minority students.

What benefits to parents see in having their children in a more racially diverse classroom?

"Parents want their children to be good people," said Bloomberg. "The idea that if you have racist ideas, if you don't know and understand people who aren't exactly like you,it makes you limited as a person."

Dias and Lavion said teachers and administrators at their school are rightly strict when it comes to race.

"If they hear somebody say, 'you're black and you're white,' they say 'It's not ok because we're just the same,'" said Dias. "I think it's good because if you don't stop it at the source or the core of it, then it's just going to keep going."

"Like a chain reaction," added Lavion.

"Yeah," said Dias. "You need to stop it when it starts."

Researchers who've studied the issue say housing segregation has played a major role in school segregation. But they also point to a series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1990s that paved the way for school districts to end their desegregation plans.

  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.