Decades of redlining and restrictive housing covenants have helped sustain residential segregation and create unequal educational access. As a result, African-American families have been deterred from accessing better-resourced school districts like top-rated Rockwood. School districts in majority-white areas that are funded primarily through property taxes help primarily white students reap the benefits of better resources and increased funding. The legacies of these policies then allow white wealth and educational advantages to grow and reinforce one another at the expense of African-American communities. Neglecting to speak about racial disparities in the very schools that have been intimately shaped by racist policies only helps perpetuate racial divides.
Rockwood has taken steps to counteract a history of segregation by taking part in the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation school transfer program since its inception in 1983 and after a court-mandated desegregation order was lifted in 1999. The program helped reduce the effects of residential segregation by providing students of color who live in St. Louis city with resources and opportunities to attend schools in the county.
Our study, “School Transfer Program & Health” at Washington University, aims to understand the experiences of African American families that currently participate in the school transfer program and how their participation affected their health. Many attended schools in Rockwood. Participation involved multiple sacrifices for participating children to attend county schools, including wake-up times as early as 5 a.m. and hour-long bus rides to and from school. However, participants who attended Rockwood schools indicated that they did not see their racial backgrounds represented in the schools’ curriculum, our study found.
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