On this day in 1954, the Supreme Court rejected the doctrine of separate but equal, ruling segregation in schools unconstitutional in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. According to a 2022 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, more than one in three public K-12 students attends a racially segregated school. This report comes after a 2016 GAO report found that segregation in public schools is worse than in the late 1960s.
In the unanimous Brown ruling, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated: “Education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments … In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is part of a high-quality education for every student. It also holds the potential to help foster school integration and reverse trends of increasing segregation. Research indicates that when implemented with fidelity, high-quality SEL can promote inclusive learning environments and support all students in their academic, social, and emotional development.
While SEL alone will not solve long-standing and deep-seated inequities in the education system or the broader society, it has the potential to cultivate knowledge, beliefs, practices, and relationships that:
- Help individuals, groups, and institutions examine and interrupt inequitable policies and practices.
- Create opportunities for students, families, and educators to co-construct more inclusive, student-centered school environments.
- Reveal and nurture the interests, talents and contributions of children, youth, and adults from diverse backgrounds.
- Create more fertile learning environments and improved developmental outcomes for all individuals.
As states and districts are seeking to apply for the Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Grants, we encourage state and district leaders to leverage SEL as part of their comprehensive plan to foster school diversity. For more information on how social and emotional learning can be a lever for equity and excellence, please see CASEL publication from August 2020, “Emerging Insights Advancing Social and Emotional Learning as a Lever for Equity and Excellence.”