Courtney Everts Mykytyn, Crusader for School Integration, Dies at 46


Courtney Everts Mykytyn, a California activist who battled educational segregation by urging white parents like herself to send their children to public schools with largely black and Latino student bodies, died on Dec. 30 when she was struck by a car in Los Angeles. She was 46.

Her husband, Roman Mykytyn (pronounced mih-KIT-in), said the cause was blunt force trauma. She was struck by a car that had inadvertently accelerated while the driver was trying to park, he said.

Through her grass-roots nonprofit organization, Integrated Schools, which she founded in 2015 and which now has about 20 chapters around the country, Ms. Everts Mykytyn worked to reimagine a different path to the difficult goal of desegregating schools whose student bodies are mostly nonwhite.

Rather than trying to change education policy or bus students outside their school districts, she challenged white, often wealthy parents to work toward creating equitable, multiracial student bodies by enrolling their children in schools where they would be in the minority and very likely have fewer resources than their own neighborhood schools.

“Attending an integrating school — one in which yours may be the only or one of a few white and/or privileged families — can (but doesn’t necessarily) mean that your child won’t have impressive-sounding credentials, after-school enrichment activities or big parent-booster budgets,” she wrote last year in a column for The Hollywood Reporter.

But, she added, “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.”

Ms. Everts Mykytyn said that she and her husband had decided against raising their own children “in a bubble” when they enrolled their kindergarten-age son in a public school in Highland Park, a gentrifying neighborhood of Los Angeles that was predominantly Latino at the time.

Seeing her white neighbors send their children to private or charter schools angered her. “You’re not too good to live here but you’re too good for the schools?” she told Patrick Wall, a reporter for Chalkbeat, an educational news website, when he profiled her for Mother Jones magazine in 2017.

Her son was among the first group of students at his school to take part in a dual-language program, in which classes were taught in English and Spanish with the goal of making the children bilingual. Ms. Mykytyn had led a campaign for the program. Her daughter followed the same path.

“Even as our kids have gone without field trips or art in the classroom, the conversations we have as a family about justice and inequality, about how the world works and our place in it, have been critical in our kids’ development,” Ms. Everts Mykytyn wrote in The Hollywood Reporter.

She made her case for integration by talking to parents at school board meetings and by telephone and reaching them through podcasts she co-hosted and through social media and video conferences.

She also brokered meetings between parents who had made the choice to send their children to schools with more students of color and those who were considering it.

Anna Lodder, a board member of Integrated Schools, said that though a precise number is not yet known, at least several hundred white parents had been influenced by the organization to place their children in predominantly black and Hispanic schools.

Courtney Virginia Everts was born on May 17, 1973, in Woodbridge, Va., to Craig and J. Paulette (Westphal) Everts. Her father was an engineer, and her mother was a homemaker. After they divorced when she was 6, Courtney lived with her mother before attending high school in Los Angeles, where her father lived.

Ms. Everts Mykytyn earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Southern California in 1998 and over the next decade received a master’s and a Ph.D in medical anthropology. By then the dual-language programs that she had begun at her son’s elementary and middle schools were becoming popular.

But she had become dissatisfied with how some white parents fixated on dual-language programs as a benefit for their children, not as a community-bonding measure toward desegregation.

“It was entirely about ‘This is really great, what I get for my kid; I’d like more,’” she told The 74, an education website. “I don’t know how else to say it other than ‘opportunity hoarding.’”

The discontent led her to begin Integrated Schools.

“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.

In addition to her husband Ms. Everts Mykytyn is survived by her mother; her son and daughter, who are now teenagers; and her brother, Christof Everts.

Ms. Lodder, the volunteer at Integrated Schools, said she had moved her own daughter from a private preschool to a public school in 2017 after meeting Ms. Everts Mykytyn.

“We felt that we’d made a safe bet, investing cash money in our child’s education, but it never felt as good as I thought it would be when I first wrote the check,” Ms. Lodder said.

Ms. Lodder told the Los Angeles radio station KCRW that Ms. Everts Mykytyn had been adept at allaying white parents’ fears about enrolling their children in schools for the sake of desegregation.

“She helped me see that my kid would be O.K.,” she said, “and would be better for it.”

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