White Students Are Integrating a Black High School in Minneapolis

Minneapolis' North Community High School. Image: North Community High School

A predominately Black school in Minneapolis is being rezoned and being integrated by white students, the New York Times reports.

North Community High School is a microcosm of Minneapolis which touts one of the most segregated school districts in the nation and has one of the largest academic gaps based on race. To combat this disturbing trend, the school district is enacting a massive plan to overhaul and integrate its schools. 

In the history of school desegregation, Black students usually take the task of integrating predominately white schools. But in Minneapolis, white students, some from well-to-do families, will carry the burden of integrating, an approach being adopted by urban school districts across the country,

Eric Moore, senior officer for accountability, research, and equity for Minneapolis Public Schools, said that 10,000 children of different ethnicity were placed in new schools this year.

“Everyone wants equity as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them,” Moore explained “This plan is saying, everyone is going to be equally inconvenienced because we need to collectively address the underachievement of our students of color,” he added.

According to research studies, school segregation is one of the major components of educational inequality in America’s schools that are diverse economically and racially; it has the potential to benefit all students.

According to the Century Foundation, two in five Black and Latino students in the United States attend schools where more than 90 percent of students are children of color, and one in five white students goes to a school where more than 90 percent of students look like them.

Mauri Friestleben, the principal of North Community High since 2019, believes that Black students should see themselves in their classmates, teachers, staff, and administration. Identity is crucial to the learning experience she argues.

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

The academic disparity mirrors the city of Minneapolis’ liberal, yet, segregated past and present. 

With a district of 30,500 students about 41 percent are white, 35 percent Black, 14 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian American and 4 percent Native American. The city has one of the worst disparities with white students testing four to five grade levels ahead of Black, Hispanic, and Native students, and two and a half grade levels ahead of Asian students.

Another challenge for the school has been low enrollment. Over the years, many families have left the Minneapolis Public Schools system, including families of color on the north side, for suburban and charter schools options.

Khulia Pringle, a local education activist, expressed her skepticism of the plan.

“I don’t think a Black kid sitting next to a white kid means that all of a sudden a Black kid is going to have higher academic outcomes,” she said. “It’s the reality that wherever white people are, comes resources.”

As the school integration plan came to fruition this year, only 30 of 440 students are white. 13 of the white students are in the freshman class, bringing down the number of students of color from 98 percent to 93 percent. 

Friestleben remains committed to empowering students of color and progressing the school forward whether white students enroll or not.

“We are not going to let anyone else be our validators or invalidators,” she said.

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