70 years since Brown v. Board of Education

Discrimination still an issue in schools across the country and commonwealth

Harrisburg, PA – Today, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) and the nation mark the 70th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ruling. The ruling found that state-sanctioned segregation in public schools violated the 14th amendment.  

“The decision in Brown v. Board of Education was a huge victory in the Civil Rights movement,” said PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. “This week I had the opportunity to join some of the delegation that brought the actual case to the Supreme Court during an event at the White House. Due to the Supreme Court decision, on paper every child now had access to an equal education. However, segregation in schools still exist today. Through historic redlining practices, white flight, and other acts of systemic discrimination, public schools today are not equal. Across the commonwealth, quality of education is based on a student’s zip code. Historically, this has left communities of color and lower incomes deprived of the services and opportunities provided to students in more affluent school districts.”

In Pennsylvania, school segregation has technically been illegal since Allen v. Meadville. On May 10, 1881, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that an 1854 law that enforced public school segregation was unconstitutional. In 1968, 14 years after Brown v. Board of Education and 87 years after the Allen v. Meadville, the PHRC ordered the Pittsburgh School District to submit a desegregation plan and in 1971, a similar order was issued to the Philadelphia School District. According to a 2022 Government Accountability report, school districts remain racially, economically, and ethnically divided throughout the U.S., even though the public school student population is growing more diverse.

“70 years after Brown v. Board of Education and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to create a more equitable education system in Pennsylvania,” said PHRC Director of Education and Outreach Desireé Chang, M.S. “Students living in lower income communities are deprived of the same resources provided to students in higher income communities. This underfunding has led to crowded classrooms, fewer teachers and outdated schools, textbooks, and an overall unequal education.”

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act offers discrimination protection for K-12 schools and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act offers protections for colleges, universities, trade, technical, professional, and business schools. In education, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on race, color, sex, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, disability, and the use, handling, or training of a service or guide animal for disability. Education discrimination can be the actions of a student, teacher, administrator, or other school employee; a school’s policy or the way the policy is applied; or a school’s policy or procedure that negatively affects a particular group.  If you feel you have experienced illegal education discrimination, you can file a complaint with the PHRC by calling 717-787-4410.

About the PHRC: The PHRC is the state's civil rights enforcement agency. Information and resources are also available at www.PHRC.pa.gov. Follow the PHRC on X, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter. 

PHRC Media Contact Details

Amanda Brothman

Communications Director 771-856-5971
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Media