The Battle to End Segregation : Yonkers’ Public Schools
By Kristen Gidlund
The school district of Yonkers was established in May of 1880, when about all of its population was Caucasian. The records show evidence that in 1940 the minority population (3.3 percent) already resided in the Southwest section of Yonkers. As the minority population grew in this section of Yonkers, many of its Caucasian residents moved to the Northeast and Southeast sections of Yonkers. After fourteen years of no school construction, in 1950 Yonkers built more schools to accommodate the increase in Northeast Yonkers. By 1950-1957 the population in this section of Yonkers grew 63 percent, and therefore new schools were needed. Four elementary schools and three middle schools on the Eastside (North and South) were constructed to serve this rise in population. Two middle schools in the late 1950s expanded to include the high school level to serve this boom as well. The minority population also increased in Southwest Yonkers as well as the student population in schools located in that area. In the court document, United States v. Yonkers found that before 1963 Yonkers did unknowingly nor intentionally try to segregate students. At this time the 1960 census reported most of Yonkers was over 80 percent white. The only neighborhood in Yonkers at this time that was predominately African American (80 percent) was Runyon Heights which is now considered one of the only predominately African American suburbs and is located on the Eastside of Yonkers. Ironically this neighborhood has manmade borders separating the community from others in the city.
After 1963 researchers found that Yonkers deliberately tried to segregate its residents in regards to housing and education. Public housing concentrated in the Southwest section of Yonkers. This population growth in the Southwest resulted in inadequate and unchanging schools in the area. Once the district built more schools each school enrolled less children and zones were redefined. The students disproportionately enrolled in the new schools for example, Yonkers High School located in Southwest Yonkers changed from around 14 percent minority population to about 22 percent. Since the 1960s Yonkers opened six schools (constructed or in open facilities) and closed nine schools in addition to four other schools that relocated. These opening and closings did the most damage and created further segregation. Three out of the nine schools that closed were racially proportionate to the city’s minority population, and the new schools that opened became disproportionately minority based or Caucasian based. Students had to transfer out of their closed schools or transfer to new schools which made the student population more segregated. Not every opening and closing of a school lead to more deeply segregated system, but the school board was aware of where minority children were going to go before these plans were instituted. Some new school openings and closings did integrate on a minuscule level however more often than not these changes were for the worst. The zones changed often due to the race dominance of the Southwest and Northeast locations of the city. All students were mandated to go to the schools in their attendance zone.
Since the 1930s only mentally disabled students received subsidized busing and attended schools outside their zones. Few minor exceptions to attending a school outside one’s zone occurred. One could apply to attend a school outside of his or her zone but this was decided on a case-by-case basis. Many emotionally disruptive minority students became labeled as disabled children. The percentage of minority children labeled mentally disabled was disproportionate when compared to the student population. When a teacher labeled a minority student, (most of these students were African American), disruptive he or she was classified in this group without the consent of a psychologist. This raised concern and brought investigators to look into the matter finding that the schools were severely segregated. These mentally disturbed children went to predominately Caucasian schools because minority schools did not have the space to accommodate them nor the resources. 
Jennifer Hochschild’s Demise of a Dinosaur: Analyzing School and Housing Desegregation in Yonkers, she raises interesting dilemmas facing the school board. Her findings suggest that despite efforts from the board, neighborhood opposition along with politics, structural agencies, and bureaucratic agencies together created this problem of segregation. Local hostility became diverted through politics where the segregated attitudes shone not in physical opposition, but in channels in which one would not become reelected if he or she disagreed. She argues that the state tried desegregating and made attempts to integrate schools but faced opposition from parents and taxpayers.
The Brown v. Board of Education court case proved that African American students learning in segregated environments effected them detrimentally, especially their personality and social consciousness. On the state level Commissioner James Allen of the State Education Department (SED) tried to tackle the situation head on in the 1960s and to desegregate schools that had percentages of three-fourths African American enrollment. These attempts faced opposition from the parents and made the school boards dismiss proposed changes. The following Commissioner Ewald Nyquist held less power in trying to pursue these changes. Legislatives applied pressure to the school board to end pursuing a more desegregated school system. Some legislatives wanted to remove Nyquist stating that time and time again citizens of their districts do not agree with bussing and therefore should not be pushed any further.
Many African American parents in Yonkers wrote letters to the school board about their children’s school environments. In the 1960s Superintendent Paul Mitchell tried to desegregate by opening two new integrated schools, hiring more black staff members, and having workshops that would help personnel better fit the needs of minority children. He even applied for aid from the RBF, Racial Balance Fund, and had an official come to speak at a PTA meeting about how the importance of these efforts. He received resistance from Caucasian mothers with their concern being how unfair this was for their children to be bussed forty-five minutes away.
In 1969 Albany started to receive phone calls and letters from concerned minority parents about their children’s schools. Yonkers’ plans on paper seemed like a start to a solution but these plans were not implemented. Dr. Morton Sobel who was a specialist for the state on integration looked at the 1963 reports and went into schools to see the conditions. He found that schools which held a majority of minority children tended to be older and their facilities were lacking. These schools employed young staff members which therefore had less experienced compared to other schools in Yonkers. Lastly, in these schools the curriculum did not reach completion by the end of the school year.
In 1971 Yonkers asked NYU to analyze the public school system in efforts to measure the racial imbalance. This study included studying the facilities, demography, and organization which informally known as the NYU Report released in 1972 to Superintendent Alioto. The city seemingly started to change schools for the better until the NYU report became available to the community. People in the community resisted the changes for various reasons. Schools would be arranged from kindergarten to fifth, sixth to eighth and then high school levels. Opening and closings of schools were slated and attendance zones would be split into three horizontal sectors. The sectors would allow students to move easily from east to west. The curriculum would be consistent for all students regardless of their aspirations, meaning that students who planned to attend college or practice a trade would take the same courses. The school board approved only minor suggestions.
 Brenner Elsa, “If You're Thinking of Living In/Runyon Heights, Yonkers; 'Dead End' Signs Recall a Bitter Legacy.” New York Times, November 17th 2002
 United States and NAACP v. Yonkers
 United States and NAACP v. Yonkers
 Hochschild Jennifer, and Danielson Michael, “The Demise of a Dinosaur: Analyzing School and Housing Desegregation in Yonkers” (Race, Poverty, and Domestic Policy , 2004: 221-241 ) http://scholar.harvard.edu/jlhochschild/publications/demise-dinosaur-analyzing-school-and-housing-desegregation-yonkers.
 Hochschild, Danielson, “The Demise of a Dinosaur: Analyzing School and Housing Desegregation in Yonkers.”
 Hochschild, J. Danielson, M. “The Demise of a Dinosaur: Analyzing School and Housing Desegregation in Yonkers.”
 Salerno Rachelle, “Segregation, northern style: a political history of non-policy making in Yonkers, New York.” (New York: Fordham, 1985)
 Salerno, “Segregation, northern style: a political history of non-policy making in Yonkers, New York.”