The Battle to End Segregation : Yonkers’ Public Schools
By Kristen Gidlund
In the United States of America children have the privilege to attend a public school from kindergarten to the twelfth grade or until he or she is twenty-one years of age. There are also free night school programs provided to those who dropped out of high school depending on the area. This education has not always been the best, nor the most fair when it comes to children of low incomes or minority groups. Before 1954 elementary and secondary schools were legally separated. After the Brown v. Board of Education court case, schools still experience segregation by housing and social patterns. Segregated schools demonstrate how the efforts of local communities have allowed segregation to still persist. The Yonkers’ 1985 court case study exemplifies how a city intentionally segregated itself, and how the United States court system tried to intervene by mandating integration.
Yonkers is the largest city in Westchester County, New York and fourth in the state. The mayor appoints members to the school board for five year terms. The school system consists of thirty-nine public schools and three colleges including two seminaries. Today, according to the Yonkers Board of Education, the average family makes $46,488 a year which is less than the average income of the county by about fifteen thousand. Twenty-three percent of households in Yonkers earn less than twenty thousand a year, which is seven percent higher than the country’s average. According to the Federal 2010 census, 56 percent identified as white, 19 percent identified as black, 35 percent Latino/Hispanic, and 41 percent consider themselves white and not of Hispanic origin. Fourteen percent of the Yonkers population lives under the poverty line. These statistics supply a basic understanding of the demographics in Yonkers. The physical makeup of Yonkers influenced the demographics in its neighborhoods. The parkways have been a major divider as they run mostly north to south. Many believe that the Sawmill Parkway divides the city between East and West with the majority of African-Americans living on the Westside with a concentration in the downtown Southwest area. During the nineteenth century Yonkers experienced a rapid change from a farming town into suburban and industrial city. Getty’s Square, located in the Southwest section of Yonkers, was where a booming commercial district formed. After World War II, Yonkers saw a housing boom where many apartments were built and Getty’s Square started to decline as a major industrial city. Subsidized housing between 1949 and 1982 concentrated in Southwest Yonkers and by 2006 held nineteen percent of the minority population of the city.
Yonkers Public Schools (Accessed March 1st, 2012) http://www.yonkerspublicschools.org/1112news-Graduation-Rate-Inceases.php.
 Martgue Donna, “Policy to practice: the least restrictive environment and co-teach inclusion in Yonkers public schools.” (New York: Fordham University, 2006)