Fifty years after the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, segregation is still an issue in some high schools in the South.
Brown v. Board of Education: 50 Years Later
TOM BROKAW, anchor: NBC News IN DEPTH tonight, the US Supreme Court decision that changed America 50 years ago today. In “Brown vs. Board of Education,” the High Court ruled racial segregation was unconstitutional in the nation's public schools. The landmark 1954 decision was the focus of the 2004 presidential campaign today. Both candidates, traveling to Topeka, Kansas, where the key part of the case was based.
President Bush dedicated the former Monroe Elementary School as a national historic site and called for better enforcement of laws against racial discrimination. His Democratic challenger, John Kerry, charged the White House has set back affirmative action and broken its promise of equal education. He said the president's No Child Left Behind law has been poorly implemented and underfinanced. Another case that was part of the Brown decision was based in South Carolina. Half a century later, has anything changed? Here's NBC's Don Teague.
DON TEAGUE, reporting: Even after 50 years, South Carolina's Scott's Branch Public High School remains 99 percent black. Nearby private school, Clarendon Hall, where tuition begins at $250 a month, is 90 percent white.
Ms. SHIRLEY BLACK, Scott's Branch High School Parent: We're still separate, and we're not equal.
TEAGUE: The road to integration began here with a fight for equality on the way to school. Black children walked up to nine miles while whites rode a school bus. When Harry Briggs asked for a bus for his kids, school board Chairman R.M. Elliot's refusal set off a legal battle. The first of five cases that became “Brown vs. Board of Education,” meant to end segregation. But here, it hasn't.
Mr. KENNETH MANCE, Scott's Branch High School Parent: If they want to come join us, that's well and good. If they don't, we're still going to have the best school we can have.
TEAGUE: Clarendon Hall, founded to avoid integration, wouldn't let our cameras in but, in a statement, says the academy now admits students of any race. Parents say they chose the school, not to avoid blacks but for quality education. At the private school, the average SAT score is 978, at the public school, just 761.
Mr. DUANE BROWN, Clarendon Hall Parent: It wouldn't bother me so much to send my child to a public school if I knew that the education that we're getting was better.
TEAGUE: And money is a big issue.
Even 50 years after the Supreme Court ruling, the legal battles over schools are still being fought in South Carolina.
CROWD: (In unison) Education now.
TEAGUE: Parents are demanding more money for public schools, after the state Supreme Court ruled lawmakers need only fund a minimally adequate education. Still, students at Scott's Branch are learning about their grandparents who fought segregation.
Ms. CINDY PERSHIA, Scott's Branch High School Student: And I'm sure they would be very, very upset about it because it seems like their efforts were in vain.
TEAGUE: Not entirely, says Joe Elliot, who, as headmaster, insisted on admitting black students at the private school. He said his grandfather, who refused those buses so long ago, was wrong.
Mr. JOE ELLIOT: There has to be healing, and I think this anniversary offers some promise for that.
TEAGUE: Even as the road to equal education here seems as long as ever. Don Teague, NBC News, Summerton, South Carolina.
WASHINGTON — Poor, black and Hispanic children are becoming increasingly isolated from their white, affluent peers in the nation's public schools, according to new federal data released Tuesday, 62 years after the Supreme Court decided that segregated schools are "inherently unequal" and therefore unconstitutional.