DE FACTO SEGREGATION Used primarily in the area of educational facilities and opportunities, the term de facto segregation refers to a pattern of racial segregation which indeed exists in practice, despite laws that prohibit it. Prior to the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, racial segregation of public school facilities was required by law in seventeen states and in the District of Columbia. This type of educational segregation can be referred to as de jure (or legal) segregation. De facto segregation, on the other hand, has always been determined by zoning and residential patterns and, as such, is not illegal in the strict sense of the word.
The development of racial residential segregation, especially in the North, led directly to a pattern of de facto school segregation. In other words, since children were invariably assigned to schools near their homes, segregated neighborhoods inherited segregated classrooms. See also: BUSING.