Student Boycott - 1979
Busing Boycott Strong At Two Schools
A threatened boycott by students at about a dozen elementary schools to conincide with the Board of Education's vote today on desegregation materialized to a serious degree at two schools - Brookline and West Liberty.
Absenteeism at Spring Garden School was reported "up," but attendance at nine other schools which would be directly affected by the board's busing plan was reported normal.
At West Liberty School in Brookline, only sixty-eight students from an enrollment of 358 (19%) were in class today, according to principal Joseph Allias.
"I can see the parents' point of view," said Allias, "but I see the board's point of view also. They're under pressure to do what they're supposed to do. The students are the ones losing today."
"The parents feel that this (the protest) is the only way they can make their point."
At Brookline School, only 180 out of 635 children (27 percent) showed up, according to principal Norbert Graney.
"I can sympathize with them (the parents) but it won't accomplish anything." he said.
Reporting normal attendance today were these schools whose students would be bused under the plan:
Fairywood, Chartiers, Morningside, Woolslair, Beechwood, Banksville, Lincoln, Fulton and Weil.
Robert Pinkerton, principal of Woolslair School, said feelings among parents seemed to be equally divided for and against the plan.
"Like any change, no one is anxious, but some are willing to go along with it, some are against it," he said.
Mrs. Kathleen Domain, a Brookline parent who kept her children home today, said doing so "teaches them that if you don't stand up and fight for what you believe in, you will be lost."
She explained that thousands of leaflets were passed around the neighborhood this week urging the boycott to coincide with today's desegregation vote.
"We don't want our kids bused. They parents haven't been able to be heard," Mrs. Domain said.
"Every one of the parents is ready to go to jail rather than see our kids bused. When they (board members) start hitting on our little kids, that is going too far."
"This isn't a black-white issue. Black parents from Weil don't want their kids bused either."
Meanwhile, four parents from Woolslair School were picketing with signs outside of the Board of Education building in Oakland this morning as members convened inside.
Their signs carried anti-busing slogans.
Board OK's Diluted
The city school board today approved a desegregation plan by a 5-4 vote, but in a surprise move it further slashed the potential impact of integration by rejecting a proposal for mandatory busing of some elementary students this year.
Therefore, the thrust of Pittsburgh's desegregation efforts this fall will be mostly voluntary, with seventeen magnet programs in nineteen schools for which students will be allowed to apply.
The only mandatory part of the plan left will be the Project Pass classes for students who fail a grade.
Although the special classes will be for first through ninth graders, only the elementary students will be bused for integration purposes. The older students will remain at their home schools.
The changes the board made today will mean only about 5,000 students will be desegregated this year, a great deal less than the 20,000 to 35,000 predicted by 1981 as called for in original plans.
By depending on voluntary means to integrate the system this year, the board may lose its ability to convince the state Human Relations Commission and the courts that the ordered plan will be successful in desegregating.
"It certainly doesn't have the impact the plan had before, and that plan was modest. But this is the will of the board," said Superintendent Jerry Olson, who had developed the mandatory measures.
The split vote on the plan also may hinder the acceptance of integration in the community, Olson added.
"The 5-4 vote clearly indicates a split. It has to be the board's plan and they have to sell it, but obviously with four not in agreement, it doesn't make the job very appealing in convincing the student that they should leave their schools for magnet programs."
Those in favore of the revised plan were board members Solomon Abrams, Jean Fink, Elinor Langer, Helen Miscimarra and board president Mary Jane Jacobs.
Those againse were Frank Widina, Jake Milliones, Evelyn Neiser and John Conley.
They opposed the plan for various reasons. Widina believes the plan went too far and would ruin the neighborhood school concept.
Milliones, however, felt it fell short of making integration equal for both blacks and whites.
The portion taken out of the plan was called special subject centers, in which about 1,500 students in grades one through eight in twelve schools would have been bused to nine other schools a half-day to four hel-fays a week for integrated classes in music, art, gym, library and foreign languages.
According to the new resolution suggested by Abrams, the special centers would be delayed until 1980 and continue through 1982.
Olson originally had suggested some sixty schools be involved this years, but then the board watered down his proposal earlier this month. It would have spread out the centers over a three-year period starting this fall.
Abrams claimed that forced busing should be delayed because, "it appears that to meet our main efforts of the magnet school plan, the full effort of the staff has to be devoted. I question whether it would be wise to rush into programs that may be beyond the capability of any district."
He also added that delaying the special centers would give the commission and the court time to review them and determine if they are acceptable.
The other changes the board voted on today include deleting the proposed traditional academy magnet for Westinghouse High School.
This was done to alleviate fears that the all-black school would be forced to close if it could not attract enough white students.
The board also decided to allow Wightman and Linden students to have the option of staying at their schools for the sixth grade as they currently do.
The proposal before the board would have sent the sixth graders to Reizenstein Middle School, making the elementary schools kindergarten through fifth grade.
Milliones charged that his colleagues are "putting the burden of busing on blacks" by refusing to bus the predominantly white students at Wightman and Linden schools yet forcing blacks at Cresent and Homewood schools to be bused.
Cresent and Homewood graduates will be bused to Prospect, Knoxville and Greenfield, all predominantly white schools, for seventh and eighth grades.
Nearly half of the district's 51,000 students are black. Last year, 54 percent of the city's pupils were enrolled in more than sixty segregated white or black schools.
The plan the board adopted today will be sent immediately to the Human Relations Commission, three months short of the Commonwealth Court deadline for the submission of a plan.
In doing so, Pittsburgh will become the last city in the state to attempt to integrate its entire system in compliance with Human Relations Commission guidelines.
Since 1968, when the commission ordered the city to integrate its schools, the board has chosen to appeal to the courts rather than comply. But its appeals ran out in August, when the state Supreme Court upheld the commission.
The board decided to devise its own plan rather than face the alternative of having the court draw up a plan.
But the board's vote on a desegregation plan will only begin the tough tasks ahead: to convince the commission that voluntary measures will work, and to sell integration to the public.
The commission already had rejected Philadelphia's plan, which relies on magnet schools, but the court has given the city until 1981 to integrate voluntarily.
The board maintains it will go ahead with its plans even if the commission disapproves.
School directors and administrators hope to launch a campaign to enroll students in magnet schools. But Olson has said the enrollment may be lower than expected because schedules have already been made out for September.
Despite fierce opposition to busing from Brookline residents, the desegregation effort continued. Brookline kids were eventually bused to Frick Elementary and Reizenstein Middle School, something that continued for many years. Due to the extremely long waits in rush hour traffic, local kids were eventually moved to South Hills Middle School in Beechview.
The integration effort continued for twenty years. In 2000 there was a grass roots effort to make a return to neighborhood schools. By this time the neighborhoods themselves had become somewhat integrated and the demographics in the various schools showed that the desegregation experiment had been, in some ways, a success. Some aspects of the old plan can still be found today, such as magnet schools, classical academies and an abundance of school buses.
* Articles from the Pittsburgh Press - March 21, 1979 *
<Local Schools> <> <Brookline History>