Remembrance: Courtney Everts Mykytyn

Courtney at NCSD’s 2017 conference.

The National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) joins others across the country in offering a heartfelt remembrance of our beloved Steering Committee Member, Courtney Everts Mykytyn. Courtney died on December 30, 2019 after being struck by a car near her home in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was 46 years old.

In recent weeks, Courtney has been remembered by national and local news outlets, in the halls of Congress, by education advocates and scholars and, too, among our vast NCSD membership as an effective, creative, and intuitive advocate who urged white parents like herself to send their children to racially and culturally diverse public schools. Many of us at NCSD relied upon and admired Courtney for her insights and fortitude. Many of us also considered her a friend who was willing to challenge our thinking, engage in difficult conversations, and make us laugh. Courtney was warm, joyful, positive, and fiercely intelligent, truly one of a kind.

Through the nonprofit she founded in 2015, Integrated Schools, Courtney and her colleagues built community with other White parents inclined to reject higher-status homogeneous White institutions in favor of racially diverse schools. Courtney was dedicated to growing this grassroots movement “of, by, and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully, and humbly” enrolling their children in integrating schools. As important to Courtney as integrating schools, though, was the way in which White parents interacted with the institutions when they got there. Through a book club, a podcast, brokered one-on-one conversations and conference calls between parents, Courtney and her colleagues also directly addressed the historic tendency of White parents to take over leadership in majority Black and/or Latinx schools. Also problematic, Courtney believed, was a common “white savior” complex in which White parents view themselves as rescuers of the school as opposed to new partners in an established community.

Anna Lodder, a board member of Integrated Schools, recently told the New York Times that at least several hundred white parents had been influenced by the organization to place their children in predominantly Black and Latinx schools.

In a 2019 article for the Hollywood Reporter, Courtney wrote: “Choosing an integrating school is not so much a sacrifice as it is reprioritizing what matters in building a world we want our children to be adults in.”

Courtney and her husband Roman initially enrolled their two children in a dual-language program at their neighborhood school where instruction is offered in both English and Spanish, with the goal of all children becoming bilingual. She later enrolled them in their neighborhood schools through middle and high school, with just a small handful of white students.

“More than anyone else in L.A. over the past decade, Courtney moved parents from ‘I’d like to send my kid to my neighborhood school, but… .’ to ‘I am sending my kid to my neighborhood public school,’” Steve Zimmer, a former president of the Los Angeles Unified School District, told the Los Angeles Times.

On January 14, U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) offered condolences on the House floor:

“Courtney understood the consequences of segregation for children and our democracy.  She often spoke about how segregation undermines our core American ideals of fairness and equality and worked tireless to help fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education,” Scott said. “Courtney emphasized that integrating schools was not about sacrifice, but instead about a commitment to strengthening our democracy and building a better society.  I hope advocates and families continue her legacy and commitment of fighting for school integration.  Further, I challenge this body to honor Courtney’s legacy in the months and years to come by taking the necessary actions to support and advance school integration.”

In addition to her husband Roman, Courtney is survived by her mother, J. Paulette Westfall, her son, Stephan, and daughter, Lulu, who are now teenagers; and her brother, Christof Ian Everts.

The National Coalition on School Diversity will formally honor Courtney’s legacy at its National Conference in March.

Reflections from NCSD Members:

  • Remembering Courtney Everts Mykytyn (Matt Gonzales, NYU Metro Center blog)
  • Courtney Everts Mykytyn: Forever in the fight (Peter Piazza, School Diversity Notebook)
  • “Courtney was so vital, both as a person and to the movement for school integration. Her voice and force is already missed.” — Professor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
  • “Courtney’s leadership in this movement helped sustain and push me, and I am missing her deeply.” — Gina Chirichigno, National Coalition on School Diversity
  • “I didn’t have an opportunity to experience Courtney and her work directly, but she and the work looked amazing. I was so looking forward to working with her on the steering committee.” — Elaine Gross, Erase Racism NY + NCSD Steering Committee Member
  • “I remain shocked and deeply saddened by Courtney’s passing, and I’m not sure that feeling will ever really go away. I think about her often in my work and life, trying to live up to the standards she set for critical self-reflection, sharp social commentary, and genuine warmth.” — Peter Piazza, School Diversity Notebook

Integrated Schools:

  • Tragedy strikes the Integrated Schools family (statement and subsequent podcast by Andrew Lefkowits)
  • Hellos and Goodbyes (Anna Loder, Integrated Schools blog)
  • My friend is dead, but don’t call her a hero (Courtney Martin, Integrated Schools blog)
  • If you would like to share a voice memo with Integrated Schools with your reflections about Courtney and her work, please email them to Andrew Lefkowits at hello@integratedschools.org.

Remembrances:

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