The Sixth Grade Centers
In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the United States Supreme Court decided that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal and mandated all school districts to desegregate schools. Meanwhile, there were three elementary schools located in West Las Vegas, and between 1956 and 1966 the Clark County School District (CCSD) built four additional elementary schools in this area. CCSD chose not to open any junior high or high schools in West Las Vegas; therefore, secondary schools in Las Vegas were more racially integrated.
However, CCSD closed two elementary schools in 1965 near West Las Vegas that could have been racially integrated and opened a new school in a predominately White neighborhood. By 1968, more than 97 percent of the students in the West Las Vegas elementary schools were African American and the more than 80 percent of CCSD’s African American teachers taught in these schools.
In response to the resistance among school districts to desegregate schools, the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called on African American attorneys to relocate to states without any African American legal representation in order to pursue legal action against school districts that had not complied with the law. The NAACP sent attorney Charles Kellar to Las Vegas in 1960, where he worked with the local NAACP chapter and the League of Women Voters of Las Vegas Valley to file suit against CCSD for intentionally maintaining racially segregated elementary schools (Kelly v. Mason, et al. in 1968 which was refiled as Kelly v. Guinn, et al. when the superintendent changed from James Mason to Kenny Guinn. ).
To resolve this suit, the court agreed to allow CCSD to implement a voluntary integration plan called “An Action Plan for Integration of the Six Westside Elementary Schools,” which encouraged African American children to enroll in schools outside West Las Vegas and White children to enroll in West Las Vegas schools. CCSD even developed a “prestige” school in West Las Vegas that included more resources as an incentive for White children to relocate. This plan failed to achieve integration. Although 1,254 African American students participated, only 321 White students enrolled in West Las Vegas schools.
In 1970, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered CCSD to develop a mandatory desegregation plan. In response, CCSD created the Sixth Grade Center Plan of Integration. This plan converted all West Las Vegas elementary schools to sixth grade centers that all CCSD students were required to enroll in for sixth grade. African American students in West Las Vegas would attend their neighborhood schools in kindergarten, but would be bused to schools outside West Las Vegas during 1st through 5th grade and again from 7th through 12th grade. Students who attended majority White schools were bused to West Las Vegas to attend a sixth grade center.
Recognizing that this plan would place most of the burden on African American students, the NAACP opposed it. Attorney Kellar appealed the plan, but the court denied his appeal. Two additional groups, “Operation Bus Stop” and “Bus-Out,” whose membership included mostly White families, also opposed any plan that would force their children to be bused to West Las Vegas. “Bus-Out” organized a one-day boycott against CCSD that kept 15,517 students home to try to convince state leaders to abolish the plan.
However, The Sixth Grade Center Plan of Integration was implemented during the 1972-73 school year. Interestingly, in effort to improve these schools, CCSD made physical renovations and developed quality and innovative academic programs to create a smoother transition for White families whose children were required to attend one of the sixth grade centers. Although many White children enrolled in the sixth grade centers, private schools in Las Vegas experienced a significant peak in their enrollment during sixth grade.
The Sixth Grade Center Plan of Integration ended in the 1992-93 academic year after African American families in West Las Vegas organized a boycott in favor of neighborhood schools. The boycott led parents of over 300 African American children to keep their children out of CCSD schools until after count day. Right before count day, the school district agreed to replace the sixth grade centers with Prime Six Schools. These schools became the neighborhood option for West Las Vegas elementary students. Parents were also given the option of sending their children outside of West Las Vegas. To attract White students in attempt to maintain school desegregation, the school district opened CCSD’s first magnet school in 1993, Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Magnet School.
Today, West Las Vegas has five Prime Six elementary schools, four magnet elementary schools, and three charter schools (K-5 and K-12), all of which are segregated by race, income, and language.
Submitted by Sonya D. Horsford, Ed.D. and Carrie Sampson, M.S.
Charter School Association of Nevada. (2013). Southern Nevada Charter Schools. Retrieved from http://www.nevadacharters.org/school-directory/southern-schools/
Forletta, F. (2012). A historical case study of school desegregation and resegregation in Las Vegas, Nevada, 1968-2008. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.34917/4332717
Horsford, S. D., Sampson, C. (2013, May). The Las Vegas promise neighborhood initiative: A community-based approached to improving educational opportunity and achievement. The Lincy Institute at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Retrieved from https://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/lincy_publications/12
Horsford, S. D., Sampson, C., & Forletta, F. (2013). School resegregation in the Mississippi of the west: Community counternarratives on the return to neighborhood schools in Las Vegas, 1968-1994. Teachers College Record, 115(11), 1-28.
Kelly v. Guinn, 456 F.2d 100 (1972)
Terriquez, V., Flashman, J., Schuler-Brown, S., & Orfield, G. (2009, June 01). Expanding student opportunities: Prime 6 Program review, Clark County School District, Las Vegas, Nevada. Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Retrieved from http://civilrightsproject. ucla.edu.
U.S. Department of Education. (2008). Work with parents & the community: Creating and sustaining successful K-8 magnet. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504196.pdf