Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Judith Kafka

Subject Categories

Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


segregation, education policy, race


New York City has one of the most segregated public school systems in the United States. The Department of Education is attempting to address segregation through district level diversity planning processes that potentially change school admissions policies. Using mixed methods, this thesis explores how advantaged parents in a Queens school district understand efforts to diversify and desegregate their district. I conducted semi-structured interviews with parents in the district, analyzed transcripts from public meetings about the planning process, and analyzed quantitative data about the schools, students, and residents of the district of study. Although parents were universally supportive of “diversity”, most were opposed to theoretical changes to school admissions that lessened the use of residential zones for school assignment or reduced the use of measures like quantitative tests for selective programs and schools. Advantaged parents understand existing segregation as the “natural” result of cultural preferences or individual educational merit, ignoring or dismissing specific local histories and structural explanations of residential and school segregation. I found that advantaged parents interpreted the district planning process through three lenses: diversity as shield, diversity as threat, and diversity as benefit. I discuss these lenses in the context of broader residential and social segregation in diverse places like New York City.