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Forced busing

From Academic Kids

Forced busing is the concept of achieving racial or economic integration in schools by transportation of schoolchildren by bus to schools outside their neighborhoods. This approach has been used in a wide variety of school systems, including Wilmington, Delaware, Boston, Massachusetts, Richmond, Virginia, Pasadena, California, and San Francisco, California.

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Boston

In the Boston metropolitan area, the term "forced busing" is primarily used by critics of a remedy prescribed by Massachusetts US District Court Judge Arthur Garrity for perceived racial inequities in Boston public schools in a 1974 ruling. Garrity's ruling applied a state law, called the Racial Imbalance Law, that had been passed by the Massachusetts state legislature a few years earlier, requiring any school with a student enrollment of more than fifty percent "non-white" to be balanced according to race. The ruling ordered schoolchildren to be transported (presumably by bus, hence the term) to schools in different neighborhoods, in order to eliminate the racial segregation that had come about.

The conflict in Boston over busing primarily affected West Roxbury, Roslindale, Hyde Park, Charlestown, Dorchester, the North End, and South Boston (the latter being traditionally Irish-American but also having a sizable Polish/Lithuanian community). It also affected the mostly black community of Roxbury. To a lesser extent, schools in Springfield, Massachusetts were also affected by Judge Garrity's order, but the plan caused little overt controversy there.

The State Board of Education took a differing view, agreeing with the Boston School Committee, chaired by Louise Day Hicks, that if any segregation did exist, it was residential, i.e., caused by families' housing choices, and not planned.


The most controversial aspects of the policy involved busing children to schools in dangerous neighborhoods or past already-integrated schools, or busing them from integrated schools to partially-integrated ones. Opponents claimed busing compromised the quality of the students' education. Opponents also personally attacked Judge Garrity himself for hypocrisy. Garrity lived in a white suburb, thus, his own children would not have been affected by his ruling. Proppoents argued that with the schools intergrated, 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.

Today the Boston Public Schools are eighty-six percent African American and Hispanic. According to Wikipedia.org, Bostons white population is 54.48 percent, Boston's black and Hispanic populations together total 39.77 percent. It seems most white parents prefer to send their children to private and porochial schools as opposed to the intergrated public schools. Boston's South Boston High school (now the South Boston High complex) was declared "dysfunctional" by the State Board of Education. Busing continues in the Boston area under the rubric of Controlled Choice, allowing any student to go to a school outside his or her own neighborhood so long as the move is conducive to achieving racial balance.

Effects of Busing

Busing and desegregation orders have in some cases led to a form of white flight out of public school systems and into other school districts and private schooling. For instance, in 1970 when a federal court ordered desegregation of the public schools in Pasadena, California, the proportion of white students in those schools reflected the proportion of whites in the community, 54 percent and 53 percent, 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 public schools and placed them into private schools instead of their intergrated school system. As a result, by 2004 Pasadena was home to sixty-three 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 percent. The superintendent of Pasadena's public schools characterized them as being to whites "like the bogey-man," and mounted policy changes, including a curtailment of busing, and a publicity drive to induce affluent whites to put their children back into the public schools.

Other cities in the United States, including San Francisco, also compel children to attend schools outside their own neighborhoods in order to promote racial diversity; in San Francisco the practice's most vocal opponents are not whites, but rather Asians, particularly Chinese-Americans, who have been the group most affected by that city's plan.

In cities such as Richmond, Virginia, when a massive program began in 1971, parents of all races complained about the long rides, hardships with transportation for extra-curricular 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).

In an effort to satisfy parents concerned about mandated long bus rides, many districts such as Richmond later modified their pupil placement plans to provide attractive programs in "magnet schools", and built new school buildings and reconfigured older buildings to develop logistically more favorable attendance plans which met desegregation goals. Combined with changes in housing patterns, the forced busing programs were gradually eliminated as the courts nationwide released districts from orders under old lawsuits.

Today, school buses are still used in most of these districts, but this is much more due to reduced walking zone distances, concern for pupil safety, and a wider choice of programs and locations for many students than requiring a pupil to ride to a school when a closer one was within walking distance.

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