Segregation in the Syracuse school system must be recognized

Although I am not from the Syracuse community, as a student at Syracuse University, I believe it is important to recognize and speak out about educational segregation in schools in the city of Syracuse. Being from New York, I was able to experience education in a diverse community. SU is made up of a diverse array of backgrounds, and we should pay attention to the greater Syracuse area. This city is now also our community.

Local Syracuse schools in the community are ranked the 13th most segregated schools in the nation. A study conducted by the Century Foundation analyzes “School Segregation in Cities Across America Mapped”. The data highlights the segregation between white and black students across the country in public and private schools nationwide.

The Century Foundation map shows that Syracuse is in the dark blue zone, which means there is high segregation in schools. “Syracuse is like many other cities in the northeast that have maintained segregation by housing, by ethnicity as we see the growth of suburbs that have become whiter
and farther from the city,” George Theoharis, professor of educational leadership at Syracuse University told CNY Central. The disparities between working-class neighborhoods and more affluent neighborhoods amplify segregation in these schools.

In Syracuse, the I-81 freeway is a physical barrier separating poverty level and low-income families from wealthier neighborhoods in the Syracuse area. The highway was built in 1959 and was built straight through a working-class black neighborhood. “It displaced long-time residents and caused poverty, pollution and lack of resources to harm the community that lived in the shadow of the freeway that still lingers today,” according to an article. of the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Civil Rights Act ended discrimination almost 50 years ago. Although Syracuse’s governing body does not deliberately discriminate against black communities living in low-income areas, the division resulting from the I-81 freeway and the city’s lack of attention to the issue has caused segregation in schools even now.



The city announced a plan last year to replace the freeway with a street-level roadway, but it’s heartbreaking that the issue was recently mooted and confirmed for a change. It seems that this widespread segregation in Syracuse has been accepted by our nation.

While Mayor Ben Walsh is taking action on the housing issue, no one has gone public with Syracuse’s segregation in schools and neighborhoods. The question was replaced by discussions of new housing options in the same low-income areas. While access to more affordable housing options is beneficial, better education options for those who cannot move to more affluent neighborhoods should be another major concern.

SU, which sits proudly adjacent to I-81, prides itself on striving for a more inclusive and diverse environment on its campus. In first year, SU students must take a freshman seminar course that teaches them about marginalized communities, intersectionality, and other important knowledge they need to understand to create a welcoming environment on campus.

At SU, 53% of enrolled students are white, 9% are Hispanic or Latino, 7% are black or African American, 6% are Asian, and less than 1% of students are Native American, according to Data USA. With more than half of SU students being white, how can we truly understand what it means to be a diverse and inclusive community?

While 8 minutes away, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Syracuse has a predominantly black student population. At Dr. King School, three out of 121 black students scored proficiency in reading and writing concepts on the NY State English Language Arts test. “For more than a decade, New York State has called the Dr. King School: a failure,” writes CNY Central. For more than 10 years, the outcome of systemic segregation in Syracuse has been ignored. The operation of a separate school system and academic issues were pushed aside as if they were unimportant to Syracuse. It affects hundreds of children and families in the community.

Equity in education should have been imposed decades ago, giving young children equal chances and opportunities for whatever future they aspire to. We cannot expect students to learn on their own at such a young age if they do not receive the proper education and resources, regardless of family income. Equity in education is crucial. Syracuse is a clear example of how equity in education is not valued. I-81 was built over 60 years ago, as was the segregation that has persisted due to its construction.

SU is one of the main reasons people know about the city of Syracuse. However, the university must realize that it is part of a larger community. Having such a wide audience, SU should be aware and provide to its surrounding communities as well as the student body. We can’t act like we’re in our own bubble on campus, which allows us to ignore the struggles of the locals around us.

Jean Aiello is a Sophomore magazine, specializing in information and digital journalism. His column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at [email protected].

Jeremy S. McLain