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Desegregation Tip Sheet (Released: 8/12/96)

Story ideas for journalists

by Luis Mocete, Office of University Communications.

On July 9, the state Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Sheff v. O'Neill case, ordering the state to desegregate the public schools “in time to make a difference before another generation of children suffers the consequences of a segregated public school education.” Since then the governor has been putting together a task force to address the situation.

Here are some University of Connecticut experts you may wish to contact for comment. If you have difficulty contacting them or need other assistance, please call Luis Mocete at

(860) 486-3530.

HISTORY

The first time the issue of school segregation arose in the state, in the 1860s, the practice was outlawed, says Christopher Collier, a professor of history who was an expert witness for the plaintiffs in Sheff v. O'Neill.

Collier testified about the history of education in Connecticut, the history of blacks and their education in Connecticut, and the constitutional relationships between towns and school districts and towns and the state.

He can be reached at (203) 795-5088.

FUNDING ISSUES

Integration will likely occur in the suburbs because these areas have the money and resources necessary, says Oskar Harmon , an associate professor of economics.

“In the current fiscial environment, the state is unlikely to provide funding for urban areas to create a quality educational system,” Harmon says.

He can be reached at (860) 486-3022.

CURRICULUM

Changes in school curriculum are imminent because of the decision in Sheff v. O'Neill, says Liliana Minaya-Rowe, a professor of curriculum and instruction at UConn who specializes in bilingual education.

“Minorities were always adjusting to the majority, but now we are going to see empowerment for minorities, and they will be able to collaborate with others in determining the content of the curriculum,” she says.

Minaya-Rowe can be reached at (860) 486-5103 (office).

SUBURBIA

“As American suburbs evolved in the 20th century, the majority of individuals who are frequently left behind in the urban communities are minorities,” says Bruce Stave, the director for the Center of Oral History.

People who are fleeing the city are sometimes “raising the drawbridge” in an attempt to have no one follow them, Stave added.

He addresses this issue in a book he is currently working on, Suburban America: Escape from the 20th Century City.

Stave can be reached at (860) 486-4578 or (860) 486-6102.

HISPANICS AND SEGREGATION

Among those who may be most affected by Sheff v. O'Neill -- urban Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans who make up the majority of the population in the Hartford school system -- know the least about it, says Julio Morales, a professor of social work at the University, who was an expert witness for the plaintiffs in Sheff v. O'Neill.

“Most urban Puerto Ricans feel the need to place a greater emphasis on economic and language issues than on segregation,” says Morales.

He is quick to point out that the majority of Puerto Ricans are in favor of integration. Parents are concerned about safety and potential discrimination, however.

Morales can be reached at (860) 241-4766.

TECHNOLOGY'S ROLE

“Virtual busing” may be one of the solutions in addressing the Sheff v. O'Neill decision, says Michael Young, an associate professor of educational psychology who specializes in the use of computers to assist learning in schools.

“The state committed $10 million in its last budget to establish technology in school systems, so technology is a natural thing to look at in order to deal with the Sheff decision,” Young says. “Technology is poised to help students experience the quality of education other schools, besides their own, may have to offer. The only problem with virtual busing is that students will not get that person to person exchange that many children and parents will want.”

Still more research needs to be done on providing students an opportunity to interact with one another through virtual busing, he adds.

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