Nationally, 39 percent of African-American students attend intensely segregated schools, where at least 90 percent are students of color, according to an analysis of 2007 data by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. And it's no longer simply a black-white issue: Forty percent of Latinos are in such schools as well.
In North Carolina, 18 percent of black students and 13 percent of Latino students attended these intensely segregated schools in 2008.
"Resegregation is a national trend [that has been building] for over a decade," says John C. Brittain, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia.
Among the reasons: white families moving out of central cities or removing their children from the public schools there; school districts being released from court-ordered plans, or abandoning voluntary plans, to promote integration after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision; and a series of Supreme Court decisions since the early 1990s that have limited the tools districts can use for integration.
The most recent Supreme Court case came in 2007 and struck down integration plans in Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky. The court ruled 5 to 4 that districts could not assign students to schools solely on the basis of race, but it held that diversity was a compelling interest that could be pursued in other ways. While some districts have come up with alternatives using a variety of demographic factors, including family income, many have dropped their integration plans.