Educational Place-making as a Form of Resistance: Examining the Educational Geographies of School (De)Segregation in Rochester, NY’s Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program (USITP)

Authors: Symon James-Wilson*, University of Toronto
Topics: Social Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: Geographies of education, Educational policy, Racial segregation, Educational place-making
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Gallier B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Levels of segregation in American public schools today are closer to those pre-Brown v. Board of Education than they were two decades ago. With eighteen independent school districts for its 745,625 residents, Rochester, NY’s greater metropolitan area is a particularly glaring archetype of fragmented American sub/urbanism. Its political and legal architectures have legitimized the institutional violence that is a nationally regarded, top-performing suburban public high school being just minutes away from an urban district where only nine percent of black males graduate high school in four years.
A highly spatial project, it is curious that such limited attention has been paid to the disputed regional politics of voluntary school choice policies within Geography. This paper examines Rochester’s Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program (USITP), the oldest voluntary school desegregation program in the US, through great attention to place-making practices and relationalities. Moving away from linear examinations of systemic violence, the findings presented draw attention to the ways racialized students’ from the city spatially disrupt de facto segregation and challenge assumed notions of marginality, disenfranchisement, and aspiration through their participation in USITP and daily movements between sub/urban spheres. Drawing on primary research, this analysis provides evidence to suggest that participants develop educational place-making practices across regional, local, and embodied scales. Rather than passive objects of educational legislation and regional governance, this paper invigorates a discussion around the role of racialized communities’ and students’ agency in school choice policies and contributes to emerging discussions surrounding spatial imaginations in the field of educational geography.

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