School district secessions deepen racial segregation

Study, co-authored by Dr. Siegel-Hawley, is first to systematically explore whether district boundaries segregate students and residents

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley Tall
Dr. Genevieve Siegel-Hawley

September 4, 2019

Since 2000, school district secessions in the South have increasingly sorted white and black students, and white and Hispanic students, into separate school systems, weakening the potential to improve school integration, according to a new study published today in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

The study, co-authored by Dr. Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, associate professor in the School of Education's Department of Educational Leadership, is the first to systemically explore whether, and to what extent, new school district boundaries segregate students and residents in those counties in the South where school district secessions have taken place.

In the counties studied by the authors, the proportion of school segregation due to school district boundaries has increased. That has been especially true since 2010, when three of the seven counties first experienced district secession. In other words, after school district secession, district boundaries played a larger role in school segregation at the county level.

“It’s hard not to look at many of these instances of secession and see them as a modern-day effort by Southern whites to avoid diverse schools,” said Siegel-Hawley. “This is especially true given the obstacles to comprehensive cross-district integration policies.”

The study was conducted by Dr. Kendra Taylor, senior research analyst at Sanametrix; Dr. Erica Frankenberg, associate professor at Pennsylvania State University; and Siegel-Hawley.

Read the full American Educational Research Association press release.