White Families In Minneapolis Are Being Asked To Help Integrate Schools


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To promote integration in its schools, Minneapolis education officials are calling on white families to do more to help in the effort.

Minneapolis is one of the country's most segregated school districts, and it has one of the widest academic gaps and recently rolled out a plan to integrate school buildings across the city.

To do so, officials broke from the tradition of requiring students of color to travel to mostly white schools and have asked white families to make the move.

"Everyone wants equity so long as it doesn't inconvenience them," Eric Moore, senior officer for accountability, research and equity for Minneapolis Public Schools, told The New York Times.

About one-third of all students –– approximately 10,000 students of all races –– were asked to change schools this year.

"The plan is saying, everyone is going to be equally inconvenienced because we need to collectively address the underachievement of our students of color," Moore said.

At North Community High, a beloved, predominately Black and low-income high school, white families –– many of whom live in the wealthiest zip codes of the city –– are being called to help execute the integration plan.

North High Principal Mauri Friestleben told The Times the transition hasn't been easy.

The proud school leader described phone calls she placed to potential new parents who littered the conversations with questions from how many Advanced Placement courses does North High offer, and if their kids would be safe walking to the bus.

While North High has experienced upgrades of its own, including expanded curriculum with more AP courses, brand new athletic field, and a radio station, Friestleben sensed skepticism from the white parents she reached out to.

Some asked her not to call back.

"At times, it was demeaning and humiliating," Friestleben said.

Her tenure at the school has largely been to support the needs of her students and address the school's challenges, which have included low test scores and enrollment struggles. Her attention has not been on trying to impress white families.

"I make a commitment that every child that walks into any doors I'm leading, that they'll feel like royalty," she said. When she arrived at North High in 2019, 90 percent of the students were Black and nearly 100 percent were students of color.

"As a society, we have subconsciously rolled the red carpet out for white children for generations upon generations. So it's my challenge and my honor that I do that for Black children, to give Black children the same experience of, 'you are at the center of my world," she added.

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