Thursday, December 13, 2007
From The Los Angeles Times…
A lesson in diversity
One of L.A.'s first magnet schools shows what the court battle was all about.
By Mitchell Lansdberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Before she arrived at middle school, Itanza Lawrence admits, she cleaved to certain racial stereotypes. Asians were quiet and smart. African Americans, her group, were “ghetto” and “not academically competitive.”
She doesn’t see it that way anymore.
One of the first things she learned at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, one of the city’s first magnet schools and, by some standards, its most successful, was that Asian Americans could be loud and rowdy. And they weren’t all brainiacs. African Americans? A lot of them turned out to be like her: driven to succeed academically and determined to go to a good college.
Along with getting a top-notch education, Itanza and many of her classmates say, they have learned to appreciate diversity and become comfortable with people of all races and nationalities. That makes LACES, as the Mid-City school is more commonly known, a model for what the Los Angeles Unified School District said it was trying to preserve when it fought a legal battle to retain the ability to assign students to magnet schools by race.
The district won that battle this week when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge rejected a lawsuit by the Pacific Legal Foundation, which claimed that the use of race in magnet assignments violated California’s Proposition 209, the anti-affirmative action initiative passed by voters in 1996.
Some at LACES, though, wonder how much the district really cares about what its teachers, students and administrators have been able to accomplish at their small, academically charged campus, which spans middle and high school.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]