“Education is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment.”

–U.S. Chief Justice Warren

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that state laws establishing “separate but equal” public schools for black and white students were inherently unequal. In violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, segregated schools were found unconstitutional. As we mark the 60th anniversary of this landmark decision that paved the way for modern civil rights, we are reminded that diversity education  must be provided  to “awaken” students, educators, and community leaders to understanding differences and respecting cultural valuesand to continuing to level the playing field within the education system.

Why doesn’t my teacher look like me? Earlier this month, researchers from the Center for American Progress and the National Education Association reported that although almost half of the students attending U.S. public schools are minorities, fewer than 1 in 5 of their teachers is a person of color.

Why do all my classmates look exactly like me? Researchers found that New Jersey has some of the most segregated schools in the nation. According to Rutgers-Newark and UCLA reports, nearly half of black and Latino students attended NJ schools where less than 10 percent of the students were white or that had no white students. A total of 191 were defined as “apartheid schools,” meaning less than 1 percent of the students were white and at least 79 percent low income.

What can I do? Support the work of the American Conference on Diversity.

Two years after Brown v. Board of Ed, our founding organization, the National Conference of Christians and Jews launched a youth education program, Anytown, now known as LEAD FOR DIVERSITY (LFD) in response to school integration in California.The legacy of this program lives on today, with this year’s program kicking off on July 13. LFD is a year-long initiative that begins with an intensive summer residential retreat experience. The program brings teams of students from high schools across New Jersey together to engage in experiential activities, small group discussions, and action planning around social justice and diversity issues. During the summer, student teams work together to create an Action Plan that continues to build and expand their knowledge about diversity and inclusion. . The students engage in strategic planning with their LFD team and school advisor  to reach the entire school population. Each year, our LFD Schools’ Action Plans impact more than 20,000 people throughout the state.

Equality in education isn’t exclusive to student learning—educators must contribute to safe and inclusive classrooms as well. For this reason, the American Conference on Diversity conducts an annual SUMMER EDUCATORS’ INSTITUTE to give teachers the tools and skills to effectively implement multicultural education. With support from the Wells Fargo Foundation and in cooperation with the Peter Sammartino School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson University, on July 8, we will hold an intensive four-day course that combines instruction, experiential activities, facilitated dialogue, and small group work for teachers, administrators, counselors, and teachers-in-training who are interested in challenging their own implicit bias to build more inclusive and affirming learning environments.

Want to make an impact? Register for “The Power of Educators: Creating Multicultural Learning Environments” by June 23 by visiting https://www.kintera.org/AutoGen/Register/ECReg.asp?ievent=1100557&en=klL1K6NMIkIUJ6OVLeJOLaN0KuI0I6MNJbLUKeOYJsL0J5PQIhJSJeN3LnIWKbO0IzH.