Angelin Aquirre is a seventh grader at Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights. Hollenbeck is 99 percent Latino - a segregated school.

Angelin Aguirre is a seventh grader at Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights. Hollenbeck is 99 percent Latino – a segregated school. (Jolie Myers/Press Play)

It’s approximately 8,000,000 degrees in Boyle Heights, but the students at Hollenbeck Middle School don’t seem to mind. They bop around Suzanne Gindin’s music class, periodically strumming guitars or shouting to classmates across the room. Ms. Gindin is waving her arms around, attempting to calm the seventh graders and launch into the day’s lesson. Easier said than done.

Hollenbeck is almost entirely Latino – the definition of a segregated school. Sixty years after Brown vs. Board of Education declared that segregation was unconstitutional, Los Angeles schools are as segregated as ever.

Which means Ms. Gindin’s students are isolated, not just racially, but economically as well. And here’s what that means for the kids:

Los Angeles is one of the most segregated large cities in the country. So – no surprise – the Los Angeles Unified School District is one of the most segregated school systems in the country. A new study out by UCLA measured just how segregated California and Los Angeles schools are. Key findings:

  • Latino children are more segregated in California than any other state in the nation.
  • Los Angeles was the first major city to abandon its desegregation plan.
  • Latino children on average attend schools that are 75 percent poor.
  • Black children are more isolated than ever before. As the Latino population continues to grow, black children have become the minority in disadvantaged schools that are majority Latino.
  • Black and Latino children are heavily concentrated in schools with lower performance scores (API scores).
  • The most segregated school districts in California are in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas.

As part of our series Fault Lines, we visited schools, talked to parents and consulted experts on how we got to this point in Los Angeles. How six decades after the Supreme Court ruled that separate could never be equal, we’re more divided than ever before.

Listen to the radio version of this story below and then take to the comments to share your stories and thoughts on school segregation.

  • Jonathan isaack q.

    I encourage you to use the term “Latino” less and use the country of origin. For example, there’s a massive difference between Chilean (students) and Mexican (students), culture, habits, foods, etc. In LA we have mostly Mexican and Central American Latinos. As a Central American, I can assure you that the problems El Salvadoreans face in LA are not the same as Uruguayans, Chilean, or Argentinian. There are cultural and financial differences. We need to differentiate like we do with Europeans and Asians. For example, French and Russians are very different such as Japanese and Vietnamese are.

    • Jabberynth

      For that, matter don’t call African-Americans “black.” Some are Ibo,
      others Masai or Hottentot or Hutu. They are as different to each other
      as Mexicans are from Panamanians and as such, shouldn’t be given the
      same moniker. That’s sheer laziness bordering on racism (seeing a group
      of people the same way).

      • Jesse Vander Does

        I think its very difficult to come up with appropriate language when we’re attempting to talk about groups of people, precisely because it is so difficult to define the boundaries of groups.

        One reason why I like the terms “black” and “white” when describing race is that I think it gets to the heart of how race is constructed in our country; its visual. Our country has a history of discriminating based on the color of one’s skin.

        In many ways individuals don’t get to define their own race, it is how they are perceived. Using over simplified labels like, “black” and “white” highlights this. Surely there are “white” African Americans, but this may not describe the group or experience that we typically think of.

        Labels are fraught with difficulties and its important to talk about the labels we use. At the same time, we need words to talk about the problems at hand. In this case, I think the article did a fine job and the more important take away is that we have a problem with segregation in Los Angeles schools, and that it has resulted in unequal education.

      • mj_fromla

        Both of you are talking miniscule percentages of the overall Black and Latino populations that have little to no effect on the performance of children in LA Public Schools. You’re splitting hairs to prove a point that has nothing to do with the real issues.

  • Barefoot_in_the_park

    Isn’t the answer to change the way schools are funded? Who says the funds have to come from real estate tax? Why not put all the funds in one pot and divide it evenly. How hard is that? Oh that’s right, we can’t do that because it would be fair.

  • Guest

    CSULA should’ve been a part of this program. I think something that was left out that also affects segregation in LA is to some extent the school board.

  • Nicole Bontemps

    I commend you for addressing this problem, however you missed a large segment charter schools. Los Angeles is on the front of this movement. Charter schools are exploding and part of the mission of many is a socio and racially diverse community. My daughter goes to one such school, and our 40% white school has faced hostility from the 90% Hispanic school we cohabitate. The leaders stirring this discord up are actually Hispanic LAUSD anti charter employees living in the neighborhood. They point to us and use the word segregated, when we actually have a very diverse student body. They staged a very hostile protest earlier in the year, during our students school day. They were an angry mob, with noisemakers, chanting for us to go. It’s surreal to me, I’m not white and I have memories of desegregation and bussing and those hostilities.

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