Tengis Gantulga, a 16-year-old junior at Washington-Lee High School, addresses the Arlington School Board. (Moriah Balingit/The Washington Post)

WHENEVER SCHOOL districts redraw attendance boundary lines, there is controversy. Parents worry about disruption to their children’s education, property owners fret that a different school could affect the value of their homes, and school officials know there is no way to please everyone. Little surprise, then, that Arlington’s recent move to refine high school boundaries sparked debate. But the conversation that has unfolded is one that school officials everywhere should pay attention to because it centers on the need — and challenges — of making schools more diverse.

At issue is the Arlington School Board’s approval on Dec. 1 of high school boundary refinements to balance enrollment among the county’s three comprehensive high schools. Driving the debate is an open letter to the school board posted on the website of the student newspaper at Washington-Lee High School that analyzes the plan and faults it as a missed opportunity to do something about the racial and economic segregation that divides schools in the northern and southern parts of the county.

“You sliced up the county to put more wealthy students with other more wealthy students, and to put less wealthy students with other less wealthy students,” wrote online editor Matthew Herrity in an analysis examining the assignment of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. A response from the chairman of the school board thanked Mr. Herrity, calling his piece “well-written and passionate” but not directly addressing his contention of students gerrymandered by economics. A petition drive calling on the board to release specific proposals to increase school diversity has been started.

Arlington, a well-regarded school system with a student population that is growing and currently 46.9 percent white, is not alone in having to address these issues. There is mounting evidence that schools across the nation have become more, not less, segregated since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision sought to dismantle a system of dual schools. Federal data from the Government Accountability Office shows that the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and Hispanic students nearly doubled between 2001 and 2014. Virginia’s schools, according to a report released last month by the Commonwealth Institute, have grown more racially and economically segregated during the past decade, with the number of students attending schools that are racially and economically isolated doubling from 2003 to 2014.

A number of factors, including housing patterns, are at play, and there is no easy, one-size-fits-all way to make schools more diverse. But doing so is to everyone’s advantage. Not only are there better outcomes for economically disadvantaged students, but studies have also shown benefits to upper- income students when they learn alongside those of different experiences and backgrounds. That is something systems such as Arlington need to keep in mind when school boundaries are redrawn in the future.