Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick and Walter Dellinger pre-emptively discuss the possibility that racial “preferences” used by Louisville and Seattle to enforce a “minimum” and “maximum” African-American presence in each school (while conveniently neglecting to watch other races) might be struck down as unconstitutional. Both opposed the idea.

The eventual decision (by 5-4 ruling, as most of this term’s have been) was that opponents were right. I think Justice Kennedy’s line was the best: “Crude measures of this sort [as illustrated in this case] threaten to reduce children to racial chits valued and traded according to one school’s supply and another’s demand.”

Where I grew up, there was a forced busing system actually worse than Louisville’s. Instead of being limited to within ISD districts, it actually was an “exchange” system; students from certain districts with high minority populations were bussed out to less-populated suburban districts. The results were staggering, and I’m confident in saying not helpful.

But I don’t think the results actually had anything to do with race.

The actual results of the program, which may or may not still exist (and hopefully will die with this decision if it does still exist) were the following:

– Increase in violence and gang activity in the suburban schools.
– Decreased involvement by parents and bussed kids alike in school programs.

By the time I was of high school age, these were bad enough for the local high school that my parents sent me to a private school (another 7 miles away). The high school had had at least one violent incident involving a weapon every week.

However, I believe that neither of these complaints has a direct relation to race. For the first, if a majority of kids were from any low-income area (“white trash”, latino, asian, black) there would likely be a larger number of latchkey kids, bad parents, violent behavior, and yes, crime and gangs and drugs.

For the second, I believe the primary problem was partially the income of parents, but also partially the onerous nature of the busing program. When kids are near a school, or “nearer” compared to a 3-hour bus ride, it’s not as far for parents to pick them up after school events. It’s not as far for parents to drop them off early. And it’s an extra amount of time for parents to drive to make it to games and cheer their kids on, and then bring them home again.

Even if the 3-hour bus trip equates to a normal 30-minute ride (and my parents usually dropped me off rather than have me have to sit and wait for a bus that took 2 hours to make what would have been a 30-minute bicycle ride, 15 in the car), that’s an hour lost from someone’s day trying to participate in these extra things. It’s harder for them to make it to parent-teacher conference night, harder for them to be there for band practice or sports programs, harder for them to be there even for a school dance. It’s also an hour of lost sleep, or lost potential study time, for the child.

And that’s setting aside the fact that school buses, even more than the school building themselves, are havens for a Lord of the Flies mentality – bored kids sitting in a confined space, with nothing to do but cause trouble and the only “supervision” an adult whose primary point of attention is not the kids, but the road. A lot of damage can be done to kids on a bus, and the longer the bus trip, the worse it gets.

The end result is a net loss for the kids on both sides of the equation. The school attendance numbers may not change, but the school community numbers do.

Category: Courthouse, School

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One Response to Is It Race or Something Else?

  1. Coaching in business says:

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and allow me to share my business coaching
    (Corporate Coaching, Business Coaching and Life Coaching) plus a piece of my life with you.

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