Segregation academies are private schools in the Southern United States that were founded in the mid-20th century by white parents to avoid having their children attend desegregated public schools. They were founded between 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, and 1976, when the court ruled similarly about private schools.
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While many of these schools still exist – most with low percentages of minority students even today – they may not legally discriminate against students or prospective students based on any considerations of religion, race or ethnicity that serve to exclude non-white students. The laws that permitted their racially-discriminatory operation, including government subsidies and tax exemption, were invalidated by U.S. Supreme Court decisions. After Runyon v. McCrary (1976), all of these private schools were forced to accept African-American students. As a result, segregation academies changed their admission policies, ceased operations, or merged with other private schools.
But most of these schools remain overwhelmingly white institutions, both because of their founding ethos and because tuition fees are a barrier to entry. In communities where many or most white students are sent to these private schools, the percentages of African-American students in tuition-free public schools are correspondingly elevated. For example, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, as of 2010,[update] 92% of the students at Lee Academy were white, while 92% of the students at Clarksdale High School were black. The effects of this de facto racial segregation are compounded by the unequal quality of education produced in communities where whites served by former segregation academies seek to minimize tax levies for public schools.