Dissertation Publication


Racial Isolation, Educational Equity, and the Right to Equal Access:

The Carlin Case and School Integration



Overview of the Study

“We conclude that in the field of public education,

the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place.

Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

                                                                        Chief Justice Earl Warren,

Brown v. Board of Education, 1954




            This study examined San Diego Unified School District’s (SDUSD) social experiment with school integration programs from the period of 1978 to 1998. This study endeavored to explore how implementation of integration programs affected the ethnically and linguistically diverse students in the sixth largest urban school district in the country—academically and cross-culturally.

In California, out of a total population of 33,871,648, 10,966,556 or 32.4% are identified as Hispanic or Latino (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). In essence, California had secured its distinction of being a state where the segregation of the Latino student had increased significantly in the last ten years (Arias 1991, p. 401). This exposure of unequal school experiences had resulted in different educational needs for Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, Native Americans, poor European-Americans and others (Orfield, 2004). Since the early 1980’s reform initiatives like A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (1983), A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (1986), Tomorrow’s Teachers (1987), and College: The Undergraduate Experience in America (Boyer, 1987). These documents refer to reforms that did not take into account ethnically diverse student needs, (Halcón & Reyes 1992, pp. 305 & 306). In reality, the call for educational reform was more for youth within the borders of the United States of America defined as “white, middle-class, suburban and non-minority”, (Passow 1984, p. 680). The unequal services to ethnically and linguistically diverse students is also found in the low achievement scores of Latinos and African-American students, especially the English-dominant Latino when compared to the achievement of White students, (California Department of Education, 2000). The dropout rate does not fare any better with as many as 50% of Latino and African-American students not graduating from high school, (Espinosa & Ochoa 1992, p.13). Thus, since the Brown decision of 1954, unequal schooling conditions have generally existed for fifty years.

            From the early 1950’s to the 1970’s the schools in California were reflective of the above practices. School segregation was also found in predominantly ethnically diverse schools that were both segregated and underachieving and in predominantly White schools where students were achieving at or above grade level. Two court cases sought to challenge these practices through the Supreme Court case of Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954), having national attention and Crawford vs. the Board of Education (1976) having state attention.

            In San Diego County, as early as 1966, SDUSD introduced an integration plan permitting students from one school to transfer to another with the intent of racially and ethnically balancing both school sites. By the time of the Carlin Case (1976), SDUSD had instituted their Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment Program [VEEP] and a magnet school system. These programs were developed to provide equal educational opportunities to alleviate racial and ethnic isolation and its harmful consequences and to attract nonresident students to other schools. Under the Carlin Case twenty-three schools were identified by the court to be racially isolated. Consequently, the school district created magnet programs at each one of these sites to address the court’s findings.

            This study examined the effects of school integration in the sixth largest school district in the nation in response to the Brown, Crawford and Carlin court decisions.


Research Question

            SDUSD’s community perspectives on school integration from 1978 to 1998 in the sixth largest urban school district in the nation are examined. In particular, the effects of the Carlin Case are analyzed within the context of the SDUSD.

Specifically, the guiding question of the study asked: How has the social experiment of social integration worked for ethnically and linguistically diverse students in the urban school district of SDUSD for the period of 1978 to 1998?

To answer this question, five areas are examined: student achievement, VEEP and magnet integration programs, student perceptions of cross-cultural interaction, student perceived integration’s benefits, administrative perceptions of conditions that hindered or promoted social integration, and the lessons learned as perceived by selected community leaders. From these six areas, six research sub-questions evolved.

            (1) What are the school desegregation effects on student achievement, for White and non-White students, in the San Diego Unified School District from the period of 1978 to 1998?

            (2) What was the pattern of integration program participation in VEEP (volunteer) and magnet (specialized curriculum) for White and non-White students in 1994 – 95?

            (3) What have been the social and educational benefits of integration to White and non-White American students within the context of the San Diego Unified School District?

            (4) What are the effects of school desegregation on the improvement of cross-cultural interaction in the schools of the San Diego Unified School District?

(5) What conditions hindered or promoted social integration in the San Diego Unified School District during the period of 1978 to 1998?

            (6) What are the lessons learned by community leaders who advocated the implementation of the Carlin Case in the San Diego Unified School District?

            These questions were examined using quantitative and qualitative methods. The following design framework as shown in Table 1 guided the research approach for each of the five questions.



Table 1

Research Design Framework




Specific Constructs



Data Sources







What effects has desegregation had on students’ achievement?


Ethnicity achievement trends


SDUSD’s pupil ethnic/racial achievement trends.


Student access to higher learning and social achievement.



Impact of

VEEP and




What was the pattern of integration program participation in the VEEP (volunteer) and Magnet (specialized) curriculum for White and non-White students in the 1994 – 95 school year?



Social Integration


Academic Integration


Annual evaluation reports by internal/external researchers.


Data on results of integration program effects (VEEP, magnet, choice)




Educational Benefits of



What are the effects of school desegregation in the improvement of cross-cultural interaction in the SDUSD?



Cross-cultural interaction and social integration


Student survey on selected areas of cross-cultural interaction



Social inclusion via cross-cultural extra-curricular activities, programs, and educational opportunities.






Comfort and




What are the social/educational benefits for White/non-White American students?


Belonging-ness, Integration and



Structured interviews of selected students participating in integration.


Participant access, school integration, climate/






What conditions hindered or promoted social integration?


Status Equalization and

Achieve-ment Gap


Interviews of selected administrators involved in integration programs.



Conditions of success and barriers of participation.


Success of Integration




What lessons did administrators and community leaders learned?



Systemic change


Interviews of advocates


Longitudinal 20-year reflections


            In researching the study, the following five (5) assumptions were part of the design of this study.

            (1) School integration was valued by school communities.

            (2) The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) was representative of a large urban school district that had aggressively undertaken action to desegregate its schools.

            (3) The years 1978 to 1998 were a representative historical period to gauge the failure or success of social integration in the sixth largest school district in the nation.

            (4) The Carlin case of 1976 gave impetus to school integration in the San Diego Unified School District.

            (5) Stakeholders’ (students, administrators, community leaders) responses to structured interview questions about social integration were reflective of their true opinions and lived experiences.



            The following limitations were identified by the author with regard to the research study.

            (1)  While San Diego Unified School District was selected as a representative of an urban school district to analyze twenty (20) years of student social integration in public schools, the patterns of integration differ from district to district in the nation.

            (2) The study was limited to the examination of school integration and not to comprehensive community integration.

            (3) The study used school district reports that documented demographic and achievement trends as well as school integration patterns for the 1978 – 1998 period.

            (4) The study selected students, administrators and community leaders to be interviewed based on criteria chosen by the researcher.

            (5) The study used secondary sources and historical documents selected by the researcher to assess the implementation of social integration in the SDUSD school records, court cases, and archives.

            (6) Psychometrically, the four different standardized tests that were used for analyzing student achievement over a twenty-year span: the CAP (California Aptitude Proficiency), CTBS/Form U (California Test of Basic Skills), CTBS/Form S, and the SAT 9 (Stanford Achievement Test Version 9)—are different. These tests were mandated by the California State Department of Education for the selected years.

            (7) The study limited itself to the years 1978 to 1998 as a historical period to gauge the failure or success of social integration in the sixth largest school district in the nation.


Definition of Terms

AGP- The Achievement Goals Program was developed to address the court order of 1982 to raise test scores and was based on the concepts of mastery learning.

CRISD- Community Relations and Integration Services Division had the major responsibility for the integration program in San Diego City Schools. It served as a support division whose primary responsibility was to assist the operating divisions in identifying and achieving goals consistent with the San Diego Plan for Racial Integration.

De Facto- Segregation that occurs unintentionally and as a result of social conditions that exist.

De Jure- Segregation that is intentional as a result of official racial classification.

Desegregation- The extent to which Latino, African-American, Asian and people of color attend school with White/Euro-American students as measured by calculating the proportions in schools with more than half whites and those that are intensely segregated.

Integration- The racial mix and physical presence of students from different racial groups in the same school.

Interstate 8- A freeway running east to west and dividing the city of San Diego into the more affluent northern region and the less well-to-do southern regions. Most higher property values are north of interstate 8.

Magnet- School programs within a school designed to draw students outside the immediate neighborhood in order to decrease racial isolation and increase inter-social exposure in the public schools through the use of a specialized high-interest core curriculum and staff.

Majority- A term used from 1960 – 1998 to identify the White student population in SDUSD. Numerically, a minority in the 1990’s, the school district refers to the White population as being majority.

Minority- A term used from 1960 to 1998 to identify non-White students as a minority. Though the non-White student population in SDUSD is now a majority the school district still refers to the non-White ethnic groups as being in the minority.

OCILE- Off-Campus Integrated Learning Experience Program, a type of integration program in which students in grade four attend Old Town, grade five attend Balboa Park, and grade six attend a camp, usually at Palomar Mountain, for an entire week.

PQIR- Program Quality and Integration Review is a monitoring program used by the district’s effort to self-monitor integration programs to assure program quality and implementation using a partnership among parents, community members, and district staff, monitoring and assessing the degree to which school sites are implementing integration programs and processes. The focus of integration monitoring was on three areas of emphases: Campus Atmosphere (School Climate), Classroom Atmosphere (Learning Climate), and Education Equity (Supportive Assistance and Activities). A selected number of schools are monitored per year.

R/HR- Race/Human Relations program for all SDUSD employees and students requiring ten annual hours to race/human concepts based on each sites’ needs and plans. The goals of the R/HR program was to promote acceptance and encourage positive attitudes toward all human diversity, be it racial, culture, linguistic, physical, or educational expectations.

Reverse Magnet- A school north of interstate 8 with a specialized core-curricular program and staff to attract non-Whites south of 8, due to dwindling numbers of resident students, in order to keep their own community school open and placate the courts.

SARC- School Accountability Report Card. An annual school/district publication legislated by Proposition 98 to describe a schools’ population, programs, personnel, test scores, mission statement, and more to the general public.

School Integration- Inter-racial school sites with classrooms providing: equal access, equitable opportunities, and social contact taught by multi-cultural personnel with curriculum, policies, and school processes that respect and treat fairly all students from diverse backgrounds.

SDUSD/SDCS- San Diego Unified School District/San Diego City Schools. Both terms are interchangeable names for the same San Diego city public school district.

Social Integration- Desegregation of school and school district institutions to bring together people of different races and backgrounds in order to increase social contact, social interaction, and social tolerance and understanding.

Unitary- A philosophical reversal from Brown’s principles freeing districts from racial integration mandates if they take the steps outlined in the Supreme Court’s Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell (1991), Freeman v. Pitts (1992), and Missouri v. Jenkins (1995) decisions regarding the Green v. School Board of New Kent County (1968) decision’s factors. Once declared unitary, minority students do not have the protection of the courts, school districts are not forced to continue any desegregation or related education programs, and the onus on evidence and proof of discrimination by school officials falls on the plaintiffs. To be a unitary district assumes that the district has fixed the harm caused by decades of segregation and overt discrimination.

VEEP- Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment Program. A two-way attendance transfer program designed to improve schools’ racial-ethnic balance, enabling students to attend schools outside their immediate neighborhoods. The program in practice generally results in large numbers of African-American, Latino, and Asian students leaving their neighborhood schools to attend schools in White/Euro-American communities.