SRHS is Diverse But Self-Segregated


Mackenzie Hallroan, Contributor

San Rafael is the second most diverse city in Marin, yet it wouldn’t seem that way if you were to walk into an ordinary classroom at SRHS, where a teacher did not enforce a seating chart. What you would see is a class divided or segregated by race and ethnicity. 

Growing up in San Rafael, I always heard how lucky I was to live in such a diverse city. However, having gone to Glenwood myself, and being a white female, almost all of my friends coming out of Glenwood were white, with the exception of a few Asian friends. What I’m trying to emphasize is that many children make the majority of their friends in their six years of elementary school. Many of us then pick up a few friends here and there from sports, clubs, and through mutual friends who seem to always come from similar demographics. 

There truly isn’t a primary solution to this issue based on the fact that people live in specific places they want or can afford, which is a whole other topic. However, I think having several dual-immersion elementary schools in the future will have a considerable impact on helping end most of the self-segregation here at SR. However the facts seem to hold back any immediate action towards the problems of geographical segregation in San Rafael.

Geographical segregation in the city of San Rafael has caused immense disillusion in several of the schools around San Rafael. It is becoming exceedingly more difficult to understand why each of the elementary schools in SR looks so incredibly different from one another. Based on a Map of Race and Ethnicity by Neighborhood in San Rafael, I concluded that several of the elementary schools in San Rafael are placed within geographically segregated areas. 

Glenwood Elementary’s student demographics are 70% white and roughly 18% Latinx. Sun Valley Elementary is approximately the same with 74% white and 17% Latinx. Both schools are located in predominantly white neighborhoods of San Rafael. Glenwood and Peacock Gap are made up of 87% white families and Sun Valley houses over 90%. These predominantly white schools and neighborhoods are only a part of the segregation problem in San Rafael.

Bahia Vista Elementary, which is located in the Canal district of San Rafael, is 97% Latinx and only 3% white/other, demonstrating a student demographic that matches the demographics of the Canal area, which is about 80% Latinx and only 9% white. The bottom line is that San Rafael is home to two major ethnic groups, both of which live mostly in completely different parts of the city, causing the self-segregation of SRHS students. 

These basic statistics show that these schools represent the racial geographical demographics of the families living near or around them. However, in other areas around San Rafael, those matchups of demographics in proximity to the schools do not reflect the demographics of the families living around those specific schools.

For example, San Pedro Elementary’s student demographics of 99% Latinx and 1% other does not seem to match the Loch Lomond neighborhood, which is 87% white and only 5.9% Latinx. Almost all of the students going to San Pedro are bused in from other areas around the city, but mainly the Canal. 

Coleman Elementary is the only elementary school in San Rafael that is a mix of 47% white and 44% Latinx students, but the kids also come from a more diverse area of the city, Dominican and Bret Harte. Neither of which are over 80% white or Latinx.

Many seem to argue that this “geographical segregation” is not an issue. That it is all based upon economics and where the different races appear to be placed within the city of San Rafael. Others believe that there is no significant effect on the lives of those students who attend a school where their race is the majority. Nevertheless, there is a considerable effect upon these students as they all travel into middle and then high school.

As an SRHS student who went to Glenwood and Davidson, I can say that there are critical issues at SRHS right now that are all causes of the geographically segregated elementary schools. Many of the problems revolve around the self-segregation by the race of students at SR. Many students are oblivious to it, even though it seems to be constantly staring them in the face when they choose to sit next to their friends who are mostly the same race as themselves. I do believe that this vital issue does derive from the placement of elementary schools. 

In my experience at SRHS I have witnessed the self-segregation when teachers allow us to choose our own seats. A majority of the time I tend to sit with my close friends, who are mostly all White. In one instance specifically, Ms. Padayachee, a Social Studies teacher at San Rafael High School, gave my Link Crew Leadership class a seating chart in order to “interrupt the natural inclination to self-segregate,” while also allowing us to “see the value in each other as individuals.” I wish more teachers would give us a seating chart, even though several students, myself included, would much rather sit with their friends. But that’s the problem. 

So when I say we have a crucial issue here at SR, I technically mean we have a problem here in our “diverse community.” Children are getting held back from having a diverse group of friends and a more well rounded acceptance of other cultures. I love that we live in one of the most diverse cities in Marin County, but can we really be proud of that diversity when all we see at SRHS is a self-segregated group of students? They are the result of the racial segregation of their city and are unknowingly holding themselves back from the immense cultural knowledge the SRHS Community should be providing them.