A Community’s Response to an Equity-Centered, Comprehensive, School Redistricting Proposal





Hood College Graduate School


Organizational Leadership

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States


In 1954, the U. S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in America’s schools. Yet, racial and socio-economic segregation continue in schools and invariably lead to differential academic outcomes for students correlated to both factors. Despite evidence that disruption of segregation benefits all students both academically and non-academically, attempts to alter the status quo frequently garner active and energetic resistance from socially dominant groups including white, middle-class parents. This qualitative, critical case study examined and contributed to the research on equity-focused, educational leadership by investigating the case of a large, diverse public school system in the mid-Atlantic, the pseudonymous Bowmantown Public Schools, when a comprehensive redistricting of attendance areas was introduced. The redistricting proposal was designed to improve facility utilization and increase diversity in schools. The study probed the following research questions: (1) How did the community respond to a school system proposal to enhance educational equity through comprehensive redistricting of school attendance areas? (2) Who were the community members that publicly voiced their views on the proposed redistricting plan? (3) What were the explicit and implicit narratives publicly voiced by community members during the proposal period? and, (4) How were the concepts of race, opportunity, and merit perceived by the community during the redistricting process? Critical Race Theory served as the theoretical framework for the study. Methodology included qualitative content analysis of over 2,500 testimonies filed by community members in an approximate 6-week period in 2019. Data sources also included school system records, school system data sets, and a reflexive researcher journal. Findings indicated that though the redistricting proposal did not explicitly cite race as a rationale for the student reassignments, colorblind racism played a central role in people’s responses. Arguments against the proposal included infringement on property rights and civil liberties. A counter narrative elevated interest convergence as a path forward. Findings suggest that despite evidence showing racially heterogenous learning environments offer benefits to all students, normalization of racial isolation in neighborhoods and schools artificially amplifies opposition to policies that might disrupt this racialized status quo. Leaders’ attention to both counternarratives and unheard perspectives may hold the key to breaking the juggernaut of white privilege that has shaped educational experiences and structures in American public education.