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According to the ACLU of Ohio, Ohio is tied with Pennsylvania for fourth in the top twenty states with the most segregated schools. Cleveland, Ohio is ranked seventh in the country for exhibiting one of the highest rates of segregation.

The first northern desegregation case in the wake of the Brown ruling to reach the high court was initiated from the Ohio chapter of the NAACP in April 1956. The Cincinnati-based federal court below had ruled in favor of allow black Hillsboro students to attend the city’s public schools, and the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, giving Hillsboro’s black students and their families entry to white schools. Clemons v. Board of Education of Hillsboro Ohio, 228 F.2d 853 (6th Cir. 1956).

In Columbus, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Robert Duncan ordered the desegregation of Columbus schools in his ruling in Penick v. Columbus Board of Education, on March 8, 1977, stating that the Columbus Board of Education had deliberately kept white and African-American students separate by creating school boundaries that sent them to separate schools.

In Cleveland, the NAACP sued the public-school system and the State of Ohio in 1973. On August 31, 1976, Judge Battisti held that the State of Ohio and the Cleveland Public Schools intentionally created and maintained a segregated school system, which violated the 14th Amendment. Reed v. Rhodes, 422 F. Supp 708, 796-97 (N.D. Ohio 1976), aff’d, 662 F.2d 1219 (6th Cir. 1981). In response to Judge Battisti’s opinion, the Cleveland Public Schools implemented an integration program, which included cross-town busing and academic improvement requirements. The Cleveland Public Schools remained under court supervision until July 1, 2000.

Although Dayton, Ohio enjoyed national attention for having the most successful desegregation plan in the country in 1976, the federal courts offered a way to return to segregated schools about twenty-five years later. In 2002, the school board, the local chapter of the NAACP, and the Ohio Department of Education agreed to end the plan.






  • Kirwan Institute Advises State Board of Education of Ohio: 10 recommendations for the State Board of Education’s revised diversity policy (February 2011) 
  • In 2011 the Kirwan Institute produced an interim report “Diversity Strategies for Successful Schools.” The report presents research, analysis, and recommendations for the Ohio State Board of Education’s Diversity Strategies Project, which will inform new policy to facilitate student diversity and reduce racial isolation within the parameters of current law, plans that are race-conscious, but do not run afoul of the general rule against individual racial classifications. This new policy is intended to will replace a diversity policy from 1980, which in part used significant student demographic deviation from the district average to determine whether interventions were needed.
  • Additionally, the Kirwan Institute has prepared recommendations for the Ohio State Board of Education Capacity Committee aligned with the state constitution’s mandate to provide a ‘thorough and efficient’ school system, reasonable, predicated upon quality research, and compliant with law.