Milwaukee Public Schools reflects on past, future of landmark desegregation case

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by Marshanna Hester

MILWAUKEE -- Ceremonies are being held across the country, including here in Milwaukee, marking the anniversary of a landmark case that ended legal segregation in public schools.

 
Sixty years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down separate but equal as law under the Brown v. Board of Education case.
 
It allowed black students the same opportunity to learn as white students and French Immersion School was the start of such change in Milwaukee.
 
Students entered the building to the sound of bell ringing to symbolically mark the opening of schools to children of all races.
 
In class, students are learning about the importance of the Brown v. Board decision and how it impacted their school.
 
For example, it took 25 years after the landmark case before Milwaukee was ordered by the courts to start a program desegregating schools.
 
French immersion began as part of those efforts.
 
Students say they're thankful to be a part of history.
 
"It's important to me because if that didn't happen I would probably be an outcast and I wouldn't have anywhere to go," said fifth-grader Kristina Burger. "And being here now with diverse schools, we can mix together and we can learn together as a big colorful family."
 
French Immersion is one of the district's high performing schools.
 
But Milwuakee NAACP Presdient James Hall said overall student performance is disappointing.
 
He cites a number of disparities that hinder equality across the board.
 
"We can't ignore the unemployment in the African American community, the poverty, the residential segregation," he said.
 
MPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton agrees too many students of color aren't making progress in schools, but he says the district is committed to overcoming that challenge to achieve the equality envisioned 60 years ago.

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