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Brown v Board of Education was a landmark case that had a monumental influence on the United States educational system. Although Brown v Board of Education helped pave the way for the civil rights movement by starting and attempting to desegregate the public school system, its initial purpose was not entirely fulfilled. Five cases regarding similar issues were appealed to the Supreme Court after all five cases were unsuccessful in the lower courts. The cases include Belton (Bulah) v. Gebhart(Delaware), Brown v. Board of Education (Kansas), Bolling v. Sharp (Washington, D.C.), Briggs v. Elliot (South Carolina) and Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (Virginia). Although these were all distinctive cases, they all brought attention to black elementary students, who were subordinate to white students. The Supreme Court incorporated these five cases into the milestone 1945 Supreme Court case, Brown v Board of Education.
In 1896, during the Plessy v Ferguson case, the Supreme Court decided that racially segregated facilities were in fact constitutional, insofar as the facilities for both black and white students were equal. The ruling constitutionally authorized laws prohibiting black individuals from sharing the same restaurants, buses and other forms of transportation, libraries, schools and other public facilities as white individuals. These laws were known as the Jim Crow laws. This enacted the concept of “separate but equal” which would remain for the next 60 years. But in the 1950s, roughly 50 years later, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, began making efforts to challenge racial segregation in the public school system, at the elementary school level. The NAACP filed several lawsuits in support of plaintiffs in states including Virginia, South Carolina and Delaware.Oliver Brown was the parent of a black child who was denied access to a white school in Topeka, Kansas. Brown argued that Topeka’s racial segregation was a violation to the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause due to the fact that although the schools were referred to as “separate but equal”, they were not, and could never be equal since they were still separated by race.
When Brown brought his case to a federal district court, they dismissed it, ruling that the segregated public schools were fundamentally “equal enough” to be considered constitutional. According to the lower district court “the physical facilities, the curricula, teachers, as well as other educational facilities in the two sets of schools were comparable.” The court also argued that although black children were required to travel longer distances to attend their school, they were provided with free transportation (a bus), and there was no service given to white students.In 1952, the Supreme Court recognized the cases and decided to hear all five collectively. The combining of the cases was symbolic, as it characterized school segregation as a national issue as opposed to an issue that affects only the southern states. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Thurgood Marshall, who was also the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, administered a testimony from over 30 social scientists proclaiming the detrimental impact of segregation on black and white individuals. The school boards lawyers constructed their justification based on earlier rulings, such as Plessy v Ferguson, and the states’ rights regarding situations involving education.
The Supreme Court did not decide to rehear the arguments for all five cases until about a year after, in the year 1953.On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs were being “deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.” In spite of the fact that the Supreme Court did rule the segregation of schools to be “unconstitutional”, their decision did not specify a time-span or “deadline” in which schools had to be integrated. Many states who did not agree with the ruling implemented it leisurely, or not at all, which resulted in the need for a second “Brown v Board of Education” decision in 1955.Brown v Board of Education II clarified that schools in the United States were required to desegregate, and to make sure this was done, federal district courts was given authority by the Supreme Court to be in charge of the schools and decide how long they had to integrate the schools, and inflict a penalty of those schools who refused to. States and schools that had no desire to integrate schools still found ways to keep their schools segregated; this occurred especially in the South.In 1956, schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia halted all funds for the County School Board in protest of educational desegregation. This caused all public schools in the county to shut down.
The schools remained closed for the next five years. This only impacted black students, as the parents of white students in the community came together to establish private schools limited to only white children. In 1959, the Supreme Court ruled the closing of the Prince Edward County schools unconstitutional, and forced the schools to reopen, but still, they refused to integrate.Despite the fact that the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court case decision helped initiate a civil rights movement, its direct purpose, the integration of the public school system, was the least successful. Although black students’ educational achievements have drastically improved in recent years, so have the achievements of white students, resulting in the imbalance in racial accomplishments to remain immense. To this day, many schools where the majority of the population consists of black students’ experience deficiency in resources. Items such as books and materials are often limited, and classes are often larger than they should be. The learning environment in these economically secluded areas are frequently interrupted.
The integration of residential communities in the public school system has not been enforced, as federal organizations have been unsuccessful in contributing to the transport of low-income individuals to schools in middle-class communities. Adjusting and enforcing these policies is necessary for the Brown decision to be executed as it was meant to be.
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