Desegregation busing in the United States

Desegregation busing in the United States (also known as forced busing or simply busing) is the practice of assigning and transporting students to schools in such a manner as to redress prior racial segregation of schools, or to overcome the effects of residential segregation on local school demographics.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision in Brown vs Board of Education made racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The process of integrating public schools met fierce resistance in the South where segregation laws took hold after the American Civil War and the Reconstruction era of the United States. In Northern and Western states, de facto segregation was the customary practice. Due to patterns of residential segregation, a principal tool for racial integration was the use of busing.[1] In the 1971 Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had the discretion to include busing as a desegregation tool to achieve racial balance. While the Swann decision addressed de jure segregation in the South, it failed to address de facto segregation which persisted elsewhere in the country. In Georgia, Governor Jimmy Carter saw that Swann was "clearly a one-sided decision; the Court is still talking about the South, the North is still going free."[2] In the 1974 Milliken v. Bradley decision, the U.S. Supreme Court placed an important limitation on Swann when they ruled that students could be bused across district lines only when evidence of de jure segregation across multiple school districts existed.

In the 1970s and 1980s, under federal court supervision, many school districts implemented mandatory busing plans within their district. A few of these plans are still in use today. The stiffest resistance to desegregation busing was the brief mass movement in Boston, Restore Our Alienated Rights.

Since the 1980s desegregation busing has been in decline. Even though school districts provided zero-fare bus transportation to and from students' assigned schools, those schools were in some cases many miles away from students' homes, which often presented problems to them and their families. In addition, many families were angry about having to send their children miles to another school in an unfamiliar neighborhood when there was an available school a short distance away. The movement of large numbers of white families to suburbs of large cities, so-called white flight, reduced the effectiveness of the policy.[3] Many whites who stayed moved their children into private or parochial schools; these effects combined to make many urban school districts predominantly nonwhite, reducing any effectiveness mandatory busing may have had.[3] In addition, school districts started using magnet schools, new school construction, and more detailed computer-generated information to refine their school assignment plans.

Due to these efforts and the fact that housing patterns had changed, by the early 1990s, most school districts had been released from court supervision and ceased using mandatory busing to try to desegregate schools. However, many continued to provide a similar level of school bus services, because families had become accustomed to the transportation and to the school choice available in recent assignment programs.



The origins of desegregation busing can be tracked back to two major developments that occurred in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s.

Prior to World War II, most public schools in the country were de jure or de facto segregated. All Southern states had Jim Crow laws mandating racial segregation of schools. Northern states and some border states were primarily white (as of 1940, populations of Detroit and Chicago were more than 90% white) and, furthermore, existing black populations were confined to ghettos by various restrictive covenants.

Starting in 1941, the so-called Second Great Migration brought large numbers of blacks into Northern cities. Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) allowed them to settle in formerly white neighborhoods, contributing to racial tension. Meanwhile, the post-war housing boom and the rise of suburbia allowed whites to migrate into the suburbs. By 1960, all major Northern cities had sizable black populations (23% in Chicago, 29% in Detroit). Blacks tended to be concentrated in inner cities, whereas newer suburbs of most cities were almost exclusively white.

At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs Board of Education (1954) overturned racial segregation laws for public schools that had been in place in a number of states since the late 19th century, and ruled that separate but equal schools were "inherently unequal". Although the Brown decision affirmed principles of equality and justice, it did not specify how its ruling would promote equality in education. Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP wanted a speedy process for desegregating the school districts, but the Court waited until the following year to make its recommendations. Reasons for delaying had to do with the changes in the Court and with Chief Justice Earl Warren steering a careful course given the expected opposition from Southern states. In May 1955, the Court ruled in Brown II that the school districts desegregate "with all deliberate speed." Public school administrators had to begin the process of desegregating the schools through the development of policies that would promote racial mixing. A backlash of resistance and violence ensued. Even members of Congress refused to abide by the decision. In 1956 over a hundred congressmen signed the Southern Manifesto, promising to use all legal means to undermine and reverse the Court's ruling.[4]

The impact of the ruling in both the North and South was limited because whites and blacks tended to live in all-white or all-black communities. Initial integration in the South tended to be symbolic: for example, the integration of Clinton High School, the first public school in Tennessee to be integrated, amounted to admission of twelve black students to a formerly all-white school.

The struggle to desegregate the schools received impetus from the African-American Civil Rights Movement, whose goal was to dismantle legal segregation in all public places. The movement's efforts culminated in Congress passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Signed by President Lyndon Johnson, the two laws signaled the end of discriminatory voting practices and segregation of public accommodations. The importance of these two laws was the injection of both the legislative and executive branches joining the judiciary to promote racial integration. In addition, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorized the federal government to cut off funding if Southern school districts did not comply and also to bring lawsuits against school officials who resisted.[5]

The momentum continued with two additional Supreme Court decisions aimed at implementation. In 1968, the Warren Court in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, rejected a freedom of choice plan. The Court ordered the county to desegregate immediately and eliminate racial discrimination "root and branch."[6] Then in 1971, the Burger Court in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education ruled that the school district must achieve racial balance even if it meant redrawing school boundaries and the use of busing as a legal tool. The impact of Green and Swann served to end all remnants of de jure segregation in the South. However, the consequence of the Swann decision ushered in new forms of resistance in subsequent decades. The decision failed to address de facto segregation.

Consequently, despite being found "inherently unequal" in Brown vs Board of Education, by the late 1960s public schools remained de facto segregated in many cities - because of demographic patterns, school district lines being intentionally drawn to segregate the schools racially, and, in some cases, due to conscious efforts to send black children to inferior schools.[7] Thus, for example, by 1969, more than nine of every ten black students in Nashville still attended all-black schools.[8] Evidence of such de facto segregation motivated early proponents of plans to engage in conscious "integration" of public schools, by busing schoolchildren to schools other than their neighborhood schools, with an objective to equalize racial imbalances. Proponents of such plans argued that with the schools integrated, minority students would have equal access to equipment, facilities and resources that the cities' white students had, thus giving all students in the city equal educational opportunities.

One argument against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that opponents of the proposed legislation found particularly compelling was that the bill would require forced busing to achieve certain racial quotas in schools.[3] Proponents of the bill, such as Emanuel Celler and Jacob Javits, said that the bill would not authorize such measures. Leading sponsor Sen. Hubert Humphrey wrote two amendments specifically designed to outlaw busing.[3] Humphrey said "if the bill were to compel it, it would be a violation [of the Constitution], because it would be handling the matter on the basis of race and we would be transporting children because of race."[3] While Javits said any government official who sought to use the bill for busing purposes "would be making a fool of himself," two years later the Department of Health, Education and Welfare said that Southern school districts would be required to meet mathematical ratios of students by busing.[3]

Another catalyst for the development of busing was an influential sociological report on educational equality commissioned by the U.S. government in the 1960s. It was one of the largest studies in history, with more than 150,000 students in the sample. The result was a massive report of over 700 pages. That 1966 report — titled "Equality of Educational Opportunity" (or often simply called the "Coleman Report" after its author James Coleman) — the study contained many controversial findings.[9][10] One conclusion from the study was that, while black schools in the South were not significantly underfunded as compared to white schools, and while per-pupil funding did not contribute significantly to differences in educational outcomes, socially disadvantaged black children still benefited significantly from learning in mixed-race classrooms. Thus, it was argued that busing (as opposed to simply increasing funding to segregated schools) was necessary for achieving racial equality.

A federal court found that in Boston, schools were constructed and school district lines drawn intentionally to segregate the schools racially. In the early 1970s, a series of court decisions found that the racially imbalanced schools trampled the rights of minority students. As a remedy, courts ordered the racial integration of school districts within individual cities, sometimes requiring the racial composition of each individual school in the district to reflect the composition of the district as a whole. This was generally achieved by transporting children by school bus to a school in a different area of the district.

"Forced busing" was a term used by many to describe the mandates that generally came from the courts. Court-ordered busing to achieve school desegregation was used mainly in large, ethnically segregated school systems, including Boston, Massachusetts; Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Pasadena, California; Richmond, Virginia; San Francisco, California; Detroit, Michigan; and Wilmington, Delaware. From 1972 to 1980, despite busing, the percentage of blacks attending mostly-black schools barely changed, moving from 63.6% to 63.3%.[3]

The judge who instituted the Detroit busing plan said that busing "is a considerably safer, more reliable, healthful and efficient means of getting children to school than either car pools or walking, and this is especially true for younger children."[3] He therefore included kindergarten children in the busing scheme: "Transportation of kindergarten children for upwards of forty-five minutes, one-way, does not appear unreasonable, harmful, or unsafe in any way."[3] The resultant Supreme Court case, Milliken v. Bradley, imposed limits on busing. The key issue was whether a district court could order a metropolitan-wide desegregation plan between urban Detroit and suburban school districts. Busing would play a key role in the implementation phase. The Court essentially declared that federal courts did not have the authority to order inter-district desegregation unless it could be proven that suburban school districts intentionally mandated segregation policies. The implication of the decision was that suburban school districts in the North were not affected by the principles established by Brown. De facto segregation was allowed to persist in the North. The courts could order desegregation where segregation patterns existed, but only within municipalities, not suburban areas. The lasting consequence of the Milliken decision is that it opened the door for whites to flee to the suburbs and not be concerned about compliance with mandatory integration policies.[11]

For the 1975-76 school year, the Louisville, Kentucky school district, which was not integrated due to whites largely moving to the suburbs, was forced to start a busing program.[3] The first day, 1,000 protestors rallied against the busing, and a few days into the process, 8,000 to 10,000 whites from Jefferson County, Kentucky, many teenagers, rallied at the district's high schools and fought with police trying to break up the crowds.[3] Police cars were vandalized, 200 were arrested, and people were hurt in the melee, but despite further rallies being banned the next day by Louisville's mayor, demonstrators showed up to the schools the following day.[3] Kentucky Governor Julian Carroll sent 1,800 members of the Kentucky National Guard and stationed them on every bus.[3] On September 26, 1975, 400 protestors held a rally at Southern High School, which was broken up by police tear gas, followed by a rally of 8,000 the next day, who marched led by a woman in a wheelchair to prevent police reprisals while cameras were running.[3] Despite the protests, Louisville's busing program continued.[3]

With waning public support, the courts began relaxing judicial supervision of school districts during the 1990s and 2000s, calling for voluntary efforts to achieve racial balance.[12] In the early 1990s, the Rehnquist Court ruled in three cases coming from Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and DeKalb County, Ga. that federal judges could ease their supervision of school districts “once legally enforced segregation had been eliminated to the extent practicable."[13] With these decisions, the Rehnquist Court opened the door for school districts throughout the country to get away from under judicial supervision once they had achieved unitary status. Unitary Status meant that a school district had successfully eliminated segregation in dual school systems and thus no longer bound to court-ordered desegregation policies. Then in 2002, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision in Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education which declared that the school system had achieved desegregation status and that the method to achieve integration, like busing, was unnecessary. The refusal of the Court to hear the challenges to the lower court decision effectively overturned the earlier 1971 Swann ruling. Finally, in 2007, the Roberts Court produced a contentious 5-4 ruling in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1(PICS). The decision prohibited the use of racial classifications in any student assignment plan to maintain racial balance. Whereas the Brown case ruled that racial segregation violated the Constitution, now the use of racial classifications violated the equal protections clause of the 14th Amendment. Writing for the minority, Justice Breyer said the “ruling contradicted previous decisions upholding race-conscious pupil assignments and would hamper local school boards’efforts to prevent ‘resegregation’ in individual schools.”[14]

Civil Rights advocates see the 2007 ruling as the inevitable consequence of gradual Court decisions dating back to the early 1970s to ease judicial supervision and limit important tools to achieve integrated schools. Even those school districts that voluntarily created race-conscious programs are under pressure to abandon these efforts as more white parents are refusing to participate in any pupil assignment programs. In some cases, white parents filed reverse discrimination lawsuits in court. Wherever the courts have backed away from mandating school districts to implement desegregation plans, resegregation of Blacks and Latinos has increased dramatically.[15] In 1988, 44% of southern black students were attending majority white schools, about 435 in 1000. In 2005, 27% of black students were attending majority white schools, an average of 270 in 1000. The PICS decision is sure to accelerate these trends. The ruling reflects the culmination of the conservative’s central message on education that “race should be ignored, inequalities should be blamed on individuals and schools, and existing civil rights remedies should be dismantled.”[16] In 2001 Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act(NCLB) which was promptly signed by President George W. Bush. The law put a premium on student testing, not integration, to measure academic progress. Financial penalties were incurred on schools if students did not demonstrate adequate academic performance. Initially supported by Democrats, the law, critics say, has failed to address adequately the achievement gap between whites and minorities and there are problems with implementation and inflexible provisions.[17]


In a Gallup poll taken in the early 1970s, very low percentages of whites (4%) and blacks (9%) supported busing outside of local neighborhoods.[3] A 1978 study by the RAND Corporation set out to find why whites were opposed to busing and concluded that it was not because they held racist attitudes, but because they believed it destroyed neighborhood schools and camaraderie and increased discipline problems.[3] It is said that busing eroded the community pride and support that neighborhoods had for their local schools.[3] After busing, 60% of Boston parents, both black and white, reported more discipline problems in schools.[3] In the 1968, 1972, and 1976 presidential elections, candidates opposed to busing were elected each time, and Congress voted repeatedly to end court-mandated busing.[18]

Opponents of desegregation[who?] busing claim that children were being bused to schools in dangerous neighborhoods, compromising their education and personal safety. Critics point out that children in the Northeast were often bused from integrated schools to less integrated schools.[3] The percentage of Northeastern black children who attended a predominantly black school increased from 67% in 1968 to 80% in 1980 (a higher percentage than in 1954).[3]

Busing is claimed to have accelerated a trend of middle-class relocation to the suburbs of metropolitan areas.[3] Many opponents of busing claimed the existence of "white flight" based on the court decisions to integrate schools.[3] Such stresses led white middle-class families in many communities to desert the public schools and create a network of private schools.[3]

Ultimately, even many black leaders, from Wisconsin State Rep. Annette Polly Williams, a Milwaukee Democrat, to Cleveland Mayor Michael White, have come to the conclusion that it is patronizing to think that minority students need to sit next to a white student to learn, and as such led efforts to end busing.[19]

In 1978, a proponent of busing, Nancy St. John, studied 100 cases of urban busing from the North and did not find what she had been looking for:[3] she found no cases in which significant black academic improvement occurred, but many cases where race relations suffered due to busing, as those in forced-integrated schools had worse relations with those of the opposite race than those in non-integrated schools.[3] Researcher David Armour, also looking for hopeful signs, found that busing "heightens racial identity" and "reduces opportunities for actual contact between the races."[3] A 1992 study led by Harvard University Professor Gary Orfield, who supports busing, found black and Hispanic students lacked "even modest overall improvement" as a result of court-ordered busing.[20]

Another mystery was why Asian students, segregated in some school systems,[21] nevertheless thrived academically.[22]

During the 1970s, 60 Minutes reported that some members of Congress, government, and the press who supported busing most vociferously sent their own children to private schools, including Senator Edward Kennedy, George McGovern, Thurgood Marshall, Phil Hart, Ben Bradlee, Senator Birch Bayh, Tom Wicker, Philip Geyelin and Donald Fraser.[3] Many of the judges who ordered busing also sent their children to private schools.[3]


Busing integrated school age ethnic minorities with the larger community. The Milliken v. Bradley Supreme Court decision that busing children across districts is unconstitutional limited the extent of busing to within metropolitan areas. This decision made suburbs attractive to those who wished to evade busing.

Some metropolitan areas in which land values and property-tax structures were less favorable to relocation saw significant declines in enrollment of whites in public schools as white parents chose to enroll their children in private schools. Currently, most segregation occurs across school districts as large cities have moved significantly toward racial balance among their schools.[23]

Recent research by Eric Hanushek, John Kain, and Steven Rivkin has shown that the achievement of black students is adversely affected by higher concentrations of black students in their schools.[24] Further, the impact of racial concentration appears to be greatest for high achieving black students.[25]

Historical examples

Boston, Massachusetts

In the Boston metropolitan area, Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts found a recurring pattern of racial discrimination in the operation of the Boston public schools in a 1974 ruling. Garrity's ruling found the schools were unconstitutionally segregated. As a remedy, he used a busing plan developed by the Massachusetts State Board of Education to implement the state's Racial Imbalance Law that had been passed by the Massachusetts state legislature a few years earlier, requiring any school with a student enrollment that was more than 50% nonwhite to be balanced according to race. The Boston School Committee consistently disobeyed orders from the state Board of Education. Garrity's ruling, upheld on appeal by conservative judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and by the Supreme Court led by Warren Burger, required school children to be brought to different schools to end segregation. By the final Garrity-decided court case in 1988, Garrity would have assumed more control over a school system than any judge in American history.[3]

The conflict in Boston over busing primarily affected the traditionally Irish-American neighborhoods of West Roxbury, Roslindale, Hyde Park, Charlestown, South Boston and Dorchester and the traditionally Italian-American neighborhood of the North End.[26] It also affected the community of Roxbury, a formerly Jewish section of Boston that by the early 1970s had become predominantly black. To a lesser extent, schools many miles away in Springfield, Massachusetts were affected by Garrity's order, but the plan caused little overt controversy there as the minority population was relatively small.

In one part of the plan, Garrity decided that the entire junior class from the mostly poor white South Boston High School would be bused to Roxbury High School, a black high school in a ghetto.[3] Half the sophomores from each school would attend the other, and seniors could decide what school to attend.[3] David Frum asserts that South Boston and Roxbury were "generally regarded as the two worst schools in Boston, and it was never clear what educational purpose was to be served by jumbling them."[3] For three years after the plan commenced, Massachusetts state troopers were stationed at South Boston High.[3] The first day of the plan, only 100 of 1,300 students came to school at South Boston.[3] Only 13 of the 550 South Boston juniors ordered to attend Roxbury showed up.[3] Parents showed up every day to protest, and football season was cancelled.[3] Whites and blacks began entering through different doors.[3] An anti-busing mass movement developed, Restore Our Alienated Rights.

The integration plan aroused fierce criticism among some Boston residents. Of the 100,000 enrolled in Boston school districts, attendance fell to 40,000 from 60,000 during these years.[3] Opponents personally attacked Garrity, claiming that because he lived in a white suburb, his own children were not affected by his ruling. The author of the busing plan, Robert Dentler, lived in the suburb of Lexington, which was unaffected by the ruling.[3] It has been noted that the children of Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis attended school in Brookline, which was also unaffected, not being part of Boston. Garrity's hometown of Wellesley welcomed a small number of black students under the METCO program that sought to assist in desegregating the Boston schools by offering places in suburban school districts to black students. However, most METCO students were from middle-class black families, and METCO was not available to poor white students from Boston. Another important difference in the suburbs was that white students there were not bused away from their neighborhoods, and towns were not under court order to enroll in the state-run program but did so voluntarily.

There were a number of protest incidents that turned severely violent, even resulting in deaths. In one case, a black attorney named Theodore Landsmark was attacked by a group of white teenagers as he exited Boston City Hall.[27] One of the youths, Joseph Rakes, attacked Landsmark with an American flag, using the flagpole as a lance.[28] A photograph of the attack on Landsmark, The Soiling of Old Glory taken by Stanley Forman for the Boston Herald American, won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography (now the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography) in 1977.[29][30] In a retaliatory incident the next day, black teenagers in Roxbury threw rocks at a white man's car and caused him to crash.[3] The youths dragged him out and crushed his skull with nearby paving stones. When police arrived, the man was surrounded by a crowd of 100 chanting "Let him die" while lying in a coma from which he never recovered.[3]

In another instance, a white teenager was stabbed nearly to death by a black teenager at South Boston High School. The community's white residents mobbed the school, trapping the black students inside.[31] There were dozens of other racial incidents at South Boston High that year.[3] The school was forced to close for a month after the stabbing.[3] When it opened again, it was one of the first high schools to install metal detectors; with 400 students attending, it was guarded by 500 police officers every day.[3] In December 1975, Garrity turned out the principal of South Boston High and took control himself.[3]

Garrity increased the plan down to first grade for the following school year.[3] In October 1975, 6,000 marched against the busing in South Boston.[3]

By the time the experiment with busing ended in 1988, the Boston school district had shrunk from 100,000 students to 57,000, only 15% of whom were white.[32] Today the Boston Public Schools are 76% black and Hispanic, and 14% White.[33] According to the 2000 census, Boston's white (non-Hispanic) population is 54.48%, whereas Boston's black and Hispanic populations together total 39.77%. Newcomer professional families in the city have comparatively fewer children, and some of those parents, both white and black, prefer to send their children to private and parochial schools rather than have their children attend public school. In South Boston, a neighborhood found by U.S. News and World Report (October 1994) to have had the highest concentration of white poverty in the country, dropout rates soared, its poorer census tracts' dropout rates superseding rates based on race and ethnicity citywide. South Boston, along with other poor and working class white census tracts of Charlestown and parts of Dorchester, saw an increase in control by organized crime and young deaths due to murder, overdose, and criminal involvement.[31] Boston's South Boston High School (now the South Boston High complex) was declared "dysfunctional" by the State Board of Education.[34]

Kansas City, Missouri

In 1985, a federal court took partial control of the KCMSD. Since the district and the state had been found severally liable for the lack of integration, the state was responsible for making sure that money was available for the program. It was one of the most expensive desegregation efforts attempted and included busing, a magnet school program, and an extensive plan to improve the quality of inner city schools. The entire program was built on the premise that extremely good schools in the inner city combined with paid busing would be enough to achieve integration.

A number of local factors made the program unworkable. The school board never really functioned to enable the program to succeed. The administration in charge of the district was ill equipped to handle the amount of money it had available. Due to wounded racial pride, concerns about closing neighborhood schools, and the large percentage of local jobs provided by the schools, the community was alternately distrustful and demanding of the program. Perhaps most damaging was that parents in the surrounding area didn't send their children to be educated in the inner city. It ended in 1999.

Las Vegas, Nevada

In May 1968, the Southern Nevada chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a lawsuit against the Clark County School District (CCSD). The NAACP wanted the CCSD to acknowledge publicly, and likewise, act against the de facto segregation that existed in six elementary schools located on the city's Westside.[35] This area of Las Vegas had traditionally been a black neighborhood. Therefore, the CCSD did not see the need to desegregate the schools, as the cause of segregation appeared to result from factors outside of its immediate control.

The case initially entered the Eighth Judicial District Court of Nevada, but quickly found its way to the Nevada Supreme Court. According to Brown II, all school desegregation cases had to be heard at the federal level if they reached a state's highest court. As a result, the Las Vegas case, which became known as Kelly v. Clark County School District, was eventually heard by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On May 10, 1972, the Ninth Circuit handed down its decision in favor of the NAACP, which therefore, required the CCSD to implement a plan for integration.[36] The CCSD then instituted its Sixth Grade Center Plan, which converted the Westside's six elementary schools into sixth grade classrooms where nearly all of the school district's sixth graders (black and white alike) would be bused for the 1972-73 school year.[37]

Los Angeles, California

In 1963, a lawsuit, Crawford v. Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles[38] was filed to end segregation in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The California Supreme Court required the district to come up with a plan in 1977. The board returned to court with what the court of appeal years later would describe as "one of if not the most drastic plan of mandatory student reassignment in the nation."[39] A desegregation busing plan was developed to be implemented in the 1978 school year. Two suits to stop the enforced busing plan, both titled Bustop, Inc. v. Los Angeles Board of Education, were filed by the group Bustop Inc. and were petitioned to the United States Supreme Court.[40][41] The petitions to stop the busing plan were subsequently denied by Justice Rehnquist and Justice Powell. California Constitutional Proposition 1, which mandated that busing follow the Equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution passed in 1979 with 70% of the vote. The Crawford v. Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles lawsuit was heard in the Supreme Court in 1982.[42] The Supreme Court upheld the decision that Proposition 1 was constitutional, and therefore mandatory busing was not permissible.

Nashville, Tennessee

In comparison with many other cities in the nation, Nashville was no hotbed of racial violence or massive protest during the civil rights era. In fact, the city was a leader of school desegregation in the South, even housing a few small schools that were minimally integrated before the Brown v. Board of Education decision reached the country in 1954. Despite this initial breakthrough, however, full desegregation of the schools was a far cry from reality in Nashville in the mid 1950s, and thus 22 plaintiffs, including black student Robert Kelley, filed suit against the Nashville Board of Education in 1955.

The result of that law suit was what came to be known as the "Nashville Plan," an attempt to integrate the public schools of Nashville (and later all of Davidson County when the district was consolidated in 1963). The plan, beginning in 1957, involved the gradual integration of schools by working up through the grades each year starting in the fall of 1957 with first graders. Very few black children who were zoned for white schools showed up at their assigned campus on the first day of school, and those who did met with angry mobs outside several city elementary schools. No white children assigned to black schools showed up to their assigned campuses.

After a decade of this gradual integration strategy, it became evident that the schools still lacked full integration. Many argued that Housing Segregation was the true culprit in the matter. In 1970 the Kelley case was reintroduced to the courts. Ruling on the case was Judge L. Clure Morton, who, after seeking advice from government HEW consultants, decided the following year that to correct the problem, forced busing of the children was to be mandated, among the many parts to a new plan that was finally decided on. This was a similar plan to that enacted in Charlotte-Mecklenberg in North Carolina the same year.

What followed were mixed emotions from both the black and white communities. Many whites did not want their children to share schools with black children, arguing that it would decrease the quality of their education. While a triumph for some, many blacks believed that the new plan would enforce the closure of neighborhood schools such as Pearl High School, which brought the community together. Parents from both sides did not like the plan because they had no control over where their children were going to be sent to school, a problem that many other cities had during the 1970s when busing was mandated across the country. Despite the judge's decision and the subsequent implementation of the new busing plan, the city stood divided.

As in many other cities across the country at this time, many white citizens took action against the desegregation laws. Organized protests against the busing plan began before the order was even official, led by future mayoral candidate Casey Jenkins. While some protested, many other white parents began pulling their children out of the public schools and enrolling them in the numerous private schools that began to spring up almost overnight in Nashville in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of these schools continued to be segregated through the 1970s. Other white parents moved outside of the city limits and eventually outside the Davidson county line so as not to be part of the Metropolitan District and thus not part of the busing plan.

In 1979 and 1980, the Kelley case was again brought back to the courts because of the busing plan's failure to fully integrate the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. The plan was reexamined and reconfigured to include some concessions made by the school board and the Kelley plaintiffs and in 1983 the new plan, which still included busing, was introduced. However, problems with "white flight" and private schools continued to segregate the Metro Nashville Public Schools to a certain degree, a problem that has never fully been solved.[43]

Pasadena, California

In 1970 a federal court ordered the desegregation of the public schools in Pasadena, California. At that time, the proportion of white students in those schools reflected the proportion of whites in the community, 54% and 53%, respectively. After the desegregation process began, large numbers of whites in the upper and middle classes who could afford it pulled their children from the integrated public school system and placed them into private schools instead. As a result, by 2004 Pasadena became home to 63 private schools, which educated one-third of all school-aged children in the city, and the proportion of white students in the public schools had fallen to 16%. (In the mean time, the proportion of whites in the community has declined somewhat as well, to 37% in 2006) The superintendent of Pasadena's public schools characterized them as being to whites "like the bogey-man,"[44] and mounted policy changes, including a curtailment of busing, and a publicity drive to induce affluent whites to put their children back into public schools.

Prince George's County, Maryland

In 1974, Prince George's County, Maryland, became the largest school district in the nation forced to adopt a busing plan. The county, a large suburban school district east of Washington, D.C., was over 80% white in population and in the public schools. In some county communities close to Washington, there was a higher concentration of black residents than in more outlying areas. Through a series of desegregation orders after the Brown decision, the county had a neighborhood-based system of school boundaries. However, the NAACP argued that housing patterns in the county still reflected the vestiges of segregation. Against the will of the Board of Education of Prince George's County, the federal court ordered that a school busing plan be set in place. A 1974 Gallup poll showed that 75% of county residents were against forced busing and that only 32% of blacks supported it.

The transition was very traumatic as the court ordered that the plan be administered with "all due haste." This happened during the middle of the school term, and students even in their senior year in high school were transferred to different schools to achieve racial balance. Many high school sports teams' seasons and other typical school activities were disrupted. Life in general for families in the county was disrupted by things such as the changes in daily times to get children ready and receive them after school, transportation logistics for extra curricular activities, and parental participation activities such as volunteer work in the schools and PTA meetings.

The white population of the Prince George's County Public Schools was growing until school busing was started; it dropped significantly afterward. The county population is now less than 25% white and more than 65% black. The statistics for the 136,095 student school district changed even more, and it is now less than 8% white and more than 77% black.

The federal case and the school busing order was officially ended in 2001, as the "remaining vestiges of segregation" had been erased to the court's satisfaction. Neighborhood-based school boundaries were restored. The Prince George's County Public Schools was ordered to pay the NAACP more than $2 million in closing attorney fees and is estimated to have paid the NAACP over $20 million over the course of the case.

Nevertheless, these demographic changes caused by desegregation busing have changed the county, transforming a great number of neighborhoods that were formerly middle-class and white to black and upper-middle class.

Richmond, Virginia

In April 1971, in the case Bradley v. Richmond School Board, Federal District Judge Robert R. Mehrige, Jr., ordered an extensive citywide busing program in Richmond, Virginia. When a massive busing program began in the fall of 1971, parents of all races complained about the long rides, hardships with transportation for extracurricular activities, and the separation of siblings when elementary schools at opposite sides of the city were "paired", (i.e. splitting lower and upper elementary grades into separate schools). One result was further white flight to private schools and to the suburbs. The percentage of white students in Richmond city schools declined from 45 to 21 percent between 1960 and 1975. This so-called "white flight" prevented Richmond schools from becoming truly integrated.[45] A number of assignment plans were tried to address the non-racial concerns, and eventually, most elementary schools were "unpaired."

Wilmington, Delaware

In Wilmington, Delaware, located in New Castle County, segregated schools were required by law until 1954, when, due to Belton v. Gebhart (which was later rolled into Brown vs Board of Education on appeal), the school system was forced to desegregate. As a result, the school districts in the Wilmington metropolitan area were split into eleven districts covering the metropolitan area (Alfred I. duPont, Alexis I. duPont, Claymont, Conrad, De La Warr, Marshallton-McKean, Mount Pleasant, New Castle-Gunning Bedford, Newark, Stanton, and Wilmington school districts). However, this reorganization did little to address the issue of segregation, since the Wilmington schools (Wilmington and De La Warr districts) remained predominantly black, while the suburban schools in the county outside the city limits remained predominantly white.

In 1976 the U.S. District Court, in Evans v. Buchanan, ordered that the school districts of New Castle County all be combined into a single district governed by the New Castle County Board of Education.[46] The District Court ordered the Board to implement a desegregation plan in which the students from the predominantly black Wilmington and De La Warr districts were required to attend school in the predominantly white suburb districts, while students from the predominantly white districts were required to attend school in Wilmington or De La Warr districts for three years (usually 4th through 6th grade). In many cases, this required students to be bused a considerable distance (12 to 18 miles in the Christina district) due to the distance between Wilmington and some of the major communities of the suburban area (such as Newark).

However, the process of handling an entire metropolitan area as a single school district resulted in a revision to the plan in 1981, in which the New Castle County schools were again divided into four separate districts (Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay)[3]. However, unlike the 1954 districts, each of these districts was racially balanced and encompassed inner city and suburban areas. Each of the districts continued a desegregation plan based upon busing.

The requirements for maintaining racial balance in the schools of each of the districts was ended by the District Court in 1994, but the process of busing students to and from the suburbs for schooling continued largely unchanged until 2001, when the Delaware state government passed House Bill 300, mandating that the districts convert to sending students to the schools closest to them, a process that continues as of 2007. In the 1990s, Delaware schools would utilize the Choice program, which would allow children to apply to schools in other school districts based on space.

Wilmington High, which many felt was a victim of the busing order, closed in 1998 due to dropping enrollment. The campus would become home to Cab Calloway School of the Arts, a magnet school focused on the arts that was established in 1992. It would also house Charter School of Wilmington, which focuses on math and science, and opened up in 1996.

As of now, Delaware has a high rate of children who attend private schools, magnet schools, and charter schools due to the perceived weaknesses of the public school system.


According to the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, the desegregation of U.S. public schools peaked in 1988; since then, schools have become more segregated because of changes in demographic residential patterns with continuing growth in suburbs and new communities. Jonathan Kozol has found that as of 2005, the proportion of black students at majority-white schools was at "a level lower than in any year since 1968."[47] Changing population patterns, with dramatically increased growth in the South and Southwest, decreases in old industrial cities, and much increased immigration of new ethnic groups, have altered school populations in many areas.

School districts continue to try various programs to improve student and school performance, including magnet schools and special programs related to the economic standing of families. Omaha proposed incorporating some suburban districts within city limits to enlarge its school-system catchment area. It wanted to create a "one tax, one school" system that would also allow it to create magnet programs to increase diversity in now predominately white schools. Ernest Chambers, a 34-year-serving black state senator from North Omaha, Nebraska, believed a different solution was needed. Some observers said that in practical terms, public schools in Omaha had been re-segregated since the end of busing in 1999.[48]

In 2006, Chambers offered an amendment to the Omaha school reform bill in the Nebraska State Legislature which would provide for creation of three school districts in Omaha according to current racial demographics: black, white and Hispanic, with local community control of each district. He believed this would give the black community the chance to control a district in which their children were the majority. Chambers’ amendment was controversial. Opponents to the measure described it as "state-sponsored segregation".[49]

The authors of a 2003 Harvard study on re-segregation believe current trends in the South of white teachers leaving predominately black schools is an inevitable result of federal court decisions limiting former methods of civil rights-era protections, such as busing and affirmative action in school admissions. Teachers and principals cite other issues, such as economic and cultural barriers in schools with high rates of poverty, as well as teachers' choices to work closer to home or in higher-performing schools. In some areas black teachers are also leaving the profession, resulting in teacher shortages.[50]

Education conservatives refute any talk about resegregation and argue that any apparent separation of races is due to patterns of residential demographics not due to court decisions. They argue that the Brown decision has been achieved and that there is no segregation in the way that existed before the ruling. Employing race to impose desegregation policies discriminates and violates Brown’s central warning of using racial preferences.[51] The achievement gap between white and minorities is not due to one school having better facilities over others. The issue is to change school culture so that it is held accountable to improve discipline, address student behavior, and implement better teaching strategies. Conservatives celebrate the recent Court decisions and Bush’s NCLB and the focus now needs to be on teaching the kids, rather than chasing “demographic rainbows.”[52]

See also


  1. ^ Jost, Kenneth (April 23, 2004). "School Desegregation". CQ Researcher 14 (15): 345–372. 
  2. ^ Patterson, James (2002). Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Pivotal Moments in American History). USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 157. ISBN 0195156323. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. pp. 252–264. ISBN 0465041957. 
  4. ^ Jost, K (April 23, 2004). "School Desegregation". CQ Researcher 14 (15): 345–372.. 
  5. ^ Patterson, James (2001). Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Pivotal Moments in American History). USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195156323. 
  6. ^ Ibid. pp. 146. 
  7. ^ Morgan v. Hennigan 1974
  8. ^ "Walking into History: The Beginning of School Desegregation in Nashville". 
  9. ^ Kiviat, Barbara J. (2000) "The Social Side of Schooling" Johns Hopkins Magazine April 2000, accessed 30 December 2008
  10. ^ Hanushek, Eric A. (1998) "Conclusions and Controversies about the Effectiveness of School Resources" Economic Policy Review Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 4(1): pp. 11-27, accessed 30 December 2008
  11. ^ Patterson, James (2001). Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Pivotal Moments in American History). USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195156323. 
  12. ^ Jost, K (April 23, 2004). "School Desegregation". CQ Researcher 14 (15): 345–372. 
  13. ^ Ibid. pp. 360. 
  14. ^ Jost, Kenneth (2007). "Racial Diversity in Public Schools". CQ Researcher 17 (32): 745–767. 
  15. ^ Orfield, G., & Lee, C. (2007). Historic reversals, accelerating resegregation, and the need for new integration strategies. Los Angeles: The Civil Rights Poject. 
  16. ^ Orfield, G (2009). Reviving the goal of an integrated society: A 21st century challenge. Los Angeles: The Civil Rights Project. pp. 4. 
  17. ^ Jost, Kenneth (April 23, 2004). "School Desegregation". CQ Researcher 14 (15): 345–372. 
  18. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 265. ISBN 0465041957. 
  19. ^ [1]. Retrieved on June 28, 2007.
  20. ^ Orfield, Gary; Franklin Monfort (1992). Status of School Desegregation: The Next Generation. Alexandria, VA: National School Boards Association. ISBN 0883641747. 
  21. ^ Michael R. Olneck and Marvin Lazerson, "Education," 313, in "Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups", ed. Stephan Thernstrom, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1980
  22. ^ Olneck and Lazerson, "Education," 317, in "Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups"
  23. ^ Rivkin, Steven G., and Finis Welch. 2006. "Has school desegregation improved academic and economic outcomes for blacks?" In Handbook of the Economics of Education, edited by Eric A. Hanushek and Finis Welch. Amsterdam: North Holland: 1019-1049.
  24. ^ Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, and Steve G. Rivkin. 2009. "New evidence about Brown v. Board of Education: The complex effects of school racial composition on achievement." Journal of Labor Economics, 27, no. 3 (July): 349-383.
  25. ^ Eric A. Hanushek, and Steven G. Rivkin. 2009. "Harming the best: How schools affect the black-white achievement gap." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 28, no. 3 (Summer): 366-393.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Theodore Landsmark press conference Abstract. GBHT original air date: April 7, 1976
  28. ^ Most Memorable Photos, Stanley Forman
  29. ^ Contextualizing a Historical Photograph: Busing and the Anti-busing Movement in Boston UMBC Center for History Education
  30. ^ Photographs depicting anti-busing protests and marches, parents demonstrating around Boston, police, and students in class and outside Hyde Park, Charlestown, and South Boston High Schools are available in the James W. Fraser Photograph Collection in the Archives and Special Collections at the Northeastern University Libraries in Boston, MA.
  31. ^ a b MacDonald, M. P. (1999). All Souls: A Family Story from Southie. New York: Ballantine 3, 95.
  32. ^ "Busing’s Boston Massacre". Hoover Institution. 1 November 1998. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  33. ^ [2] Boston Public Schools data, 2008.
  34. ^
  35. ^ Matthew, Ronan. A History of the Las Vegas School Desegregation Case: Kelly et al. v. Clark County School District (Las Vegas: UNLV, 1998), 28.
  36. ^ Matthew, Ronan. A History of the Las Vegas School Desegregation Case: Kelly et al. v. Clark County School District (Las Vegas: UNLV, 1998), 94.
  37. ^ Matthew, Ronan. A History of the Las Vegas School Desegregation Case: Kelly et al. v. Clark County School District (Las Vegas: UNLV, 1998), 33.
  38. ^ Crawford v. Board of Ed. of Los Angeles 458 U.S. 527 (1982)
  39. ^ Crawford v. Board of Educ. of the City of Los Angeles, 200 Cal. App. 3d 1397, 1402 (1988).
  40. ^ Bustop, Inc. v. Los Angeles Bd. of Ed., 439 U.S. 1380 (1978)
  41. ^ Bustop, Inc. v. Los Angeles Bd. of Ed.439 U.S. 1384 (1978)
  42. ^ David S. Ettinger - The Quest to DESEGREGATE Los Angeles Schools. Los Angeles Lawyer, a publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. March 2003
  43. ^ The Burden of Busing: The Politics of Desegregation in Nashville, Tennessee by Richard A. Pride and J. David Woodard. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville: 1985.
  44. ^
  45. ^ School Busing - The Civil Rights Movement in Virginia - Virginia Historical Society
  47. ^ Kozol, J. "Overcoming Apartheid", The Nation, Decem ber 19, 2005. p. 26
  48. ^ Johnson, T. A. (2009-02-03) "African American Administration of Predominately Black Schools: Segregation or Emancipation in Omaha, Nebraska." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Black Life and History in Charlotte, NC.
  49. ^ "Law to Segregate Omaha Schools Divides Nebraska", The New York Times. April 15, 2006. Retrieved April 12, 2009.
  50. ^ Jonnson, P. (January 21, 2003) "White teachers flee black schools", Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 4/12/09.
  51. ^ Jost, Kenneth (April 23, 2004). "School Desegregation". CQ Researcher 14 (15): 345–372. 
  52. ^ Ibid. pp. 365. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Supreme Court of the United States — Infobox High Court|court name = Supreme Court of the United States imagesize = 150px caption = established = 1789 country = United States location = Washington, D.C. coordinates= coord|38|53|26.55|N|77|00|15.64|W|display=inline,title type =… …   Wikipedia

  • History of education in the United States — The history of education in the United States, often called foundations of education, is the study of educational policy, formal institutions and informal learning from the 17th to the 21st century.HistoryThe first American schools opened during… …   Wikipedia

  • Education in the United States — of America U.S. Department of Education Secretary Deputy Secretary Arne Duncan Anthony Miller …   Wikipedia

  • Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution — United States of America …   Wikipedia

  • Judicial aspects of race in the United States — Race legislation in the United States has known several historical phases. Its roots are to be found in the European colonization of the Americas, the Indian Wars, and the triangular slave trade. However, the 1776 Declaration of Independence… …   Wikipedia

  • United States — a republic in the N Western Hemisphere comprising 48 conterminous states, the District of Columbia, and Alaska in North America, and Hawaii in the N Pacific. 267,954,767; conterminous United States, 3,022,387 sq. mi. (7,827,982 sq. km); with… …   Universalium

  • Progressive Labor Party (United States) — The Progressive Labor Party (originally the Progressive Labor Movement and often referred to as PL) is a transnational communist party based in the United States. It was formed in the fall of 1961 by members of the Communist Party USA who felt… …   Wikipedia

  • The Soiling of Old Glory — is a Pulitzer Prize ndash;winning photograph taken for the Boston Herald American in 1976 by Stanley Forman.cite web | work=Slate | title=The Soiling of Old Glory | last=Masur | first=Louis P. | url= | date=2008 04 …   Wikipedia

  • Desegregation — Part of a series on Discrimination General forms …   Wikipedia

  • The Courier-Journal — The July 27, 2005 front page of The Courier Journal Type Daily newspaper …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.