Separate but equal in Duval County: What does it really mean?

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charter schools
The U.S. Census Bureau lists the following demographics for Duval County: 61 percent white; 30.5 percent black; 9.7 percent Hispanic or Latino; and 5 percent Asian.

Charter schools typically don’t have transportation services, and they can’t gerrymander enrollment zones that zigzag through the county to diversify the student body. So what’s a charter school to do if it wants to enroll more minority students?

What about building a school right where minority students live?

In Duval County, that would violate Brown v Board of Education by creating “a separate but equal school,” according to Duval County Public Schools superintendent Diana L. Greene.

This was one of several excuses Greene used to deny a recent charter school application.

Of course, building a school where minority children live doesn’t actually violate Brown. If it did, Duval County Public Schools would be in violation too.

The charter school group in question operates two schools: Seaside Charter Beaches and Seaside Charter San Jose. The schools are mostly white, even when compared to nearby public elementary schools.

Seaside Charter Beaches, for example, is 80 percent white, which is more than nearby public elementary schools Mayport (51 percent), Joseph Finnegan (54 percent) and Atlantic Beach (70 percent).

But now Seaside wants to open a third campus where neighboring public schools are Pine Estates (76 percent black), Garden City (77 percent), Biscayne Elementary (84 percent) and Highlands Elementary (75 percent).

These aren’t even the most racially segregated schools in Duval County. Carter G. Woodson Elementary is 95 percent black. Brentwood Elementary and Sallye B. Mathis Elementary are 94 percent black. Four elementary schools — Lake Forest, Richard L. Brown, Rufus E. Payne, and S.A. Hull — are 92 percent black. Susie E. Tolbert Elementary is 91 percent black.

Meanwhile, the district operates several public elementary schools that are just about as white as Seaside’s schools: Atlantic Beach and Thomas Jefferson, both 70 percent white; Hendricks, 71 percent; Whitehouse, 76 percent; and San Pablo, 79 percent.

Superintendent Greene believes operating a mostly white school while creating another school in a minority area creates racial segregation and violates Brown v. Board. But if that’s the case, one must wonder what she and Duval County Public Schools have been doing all this time.