VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 7 POSTED ON: 10/6/2012
O. 1 Chibuzo O. Mr. Beare United States History H300b 20 April 2008 A Call to Action: Desegregation in Seattle Public Schools In a progressive society, interaction between people of diverse ethnicities should be a vital component in every student’s educational experience. It is with this exposure in the classroom that children are prepared for the pluralistic society that awaits them in their adult lives. Seattle, like every major city in the U.S., came to this logical conclusion in December 1977 when the school board adopted the “Seattle Plan”, a system that sought to desegregate the Seattle Public Schools and at the same time, bring about an end to the segregated education that furthered attitudes of black inferiority and indifference. However, the marvel of Seattle’s desegregation story does not lie in desegregation itself, but in the fact that school officials satisfied a “homegrown problem” with a “homegrown solution” (Pieroth, 50). The push for desegregation actioned by the Seattle Public Schools in the late 60’s was the byproduct of a comprehensive effort to end the racial imbalance in institutions across the nation. However, the reality is that de facto segregation – segregation as a matter of custom, is just as real as segregation imposed by law. This said, it is important to understand that the history of segregated schools in Seattle is rooted in the decades of discriminatory housing and employment practices that confined the African American population in Seattle to substandard neighborhoods and subsequently, inadequate education. However, probably the grimmest reality is that the “Seattle Plan”, the system that once governed my educational experience, is inherently flawed in that it perpetuates a model of “desegregation” that is unequal for a select few and helps to further segregationist tendencies. This system that garnered so much praise for its peaceful execution and lack of court intervention is not without its shortcomings and I’ve come to the conclusion that desegregation, in its “Seattle Plan” format, while well intentioned, contributed heavily to the disparity in African American achievement, incited white-flight, and left the blacks to shoulder the burden of integration (Tate, “Bussing”). O. 2 The ambiguity of this topic leaves us with a million places to start, but perhaps the best place to begin is with the history of segregated Seattle and how the racist dynamic within institutions across the city contributed to the stifling, relentless environment for which blacks were forced to endure. I blame it on the restrictive codes. After 1926, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized their use, racial deed restrictions were in heavy circulation. Restrictive covenants were implemented in order to keep white neighborhoods minority free. And because these restrictions were enforceable contracts, any owner who violated them risked forfeiting their property (Gregory). As such, land developers, realtors, and neighborhood associations wrote racial restrictions in certain property deeds that made it illegal to rent or sell property to no white persons (Clark). The language in these covenants is so unequivocally racist; one such example comes from a deed in the Queen Anne neighborhood: "No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property” (Gregory). And according to district rules, children were forced to attend their neighborhood schools; consequently, black schools were concentrated to mainly one area of the city. The Lake Washington Ship Canal had become a de facto racial dividing line, with students of color concentrated in schools south of the canal (Tate, “Bussing”). Black schools in the Central District of Seattle had less funding and inexperienced teachers which contributed to lower test scores and higher dropout rates. Many argued that this failure within black schools was a result of the “neighborhood school concept” that perpetuated de facto segregated schools through residential stratification and adherence to district rules (Clarke). The foundation of acceptance for district wide desegregation was built slowly and with considerable caution thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s critical 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of education (Pieroth, 50). In this ruling, the court essentially dismantled Plessy v. Ferguson and held that separate is inherently unequal and as such, segregated schools are fundamentally unconstitutional. At first, Seattle, like many other cities in the north, doubted that the ruling had any practical application to its schools considering that Seattle had not maintained a de jure segregated school system (Pieroth, 50). However, in a lawsuit on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people (NAACP) against the Seattle School Board, Philip Burton, a civil rights attorney, cited Brown v. Board of education and sought to end segregation in Seattle area schools. The case was settled out of court in 1963 when the school board decided to support a program allowing students to voluntarily transfer from school to school in order to ease the racial imbalance. O. 3 Initially students were not provided transportation by the district, but rode city buses and were transported in carpools. However the results proved fruitless, there was very little movement between the blacks in the south and the whites in the north (Tate, “Bussing”). After “voluntary reassignment” collapsed, the school board introduced other fruitless endeavors aimed toward desegregation, none of which worked. Then in May 1965, a new plan brought to the forefront by Seattle’s Urban League was introduced. It was called the Triad Plan; its aim was to desegregate all tiers of the school system by matching up white schools with black schools and essentially creating a mix between the homogenous communities (Clark). Nevertheless, the Triad Plan did not appeal to school board members. The unenthusiastic response from the school board, coupled with years of empty planning resulted in increased pressure from the NAACP on the school Board. Later that year, NAACP president, June Smith, cautioned the school board to take action before a boycott of the Seattle public schools was enforced. She stated: “If the Seattle School Board does not devise a long-range school integration program and begin implementing it next fall, we will have to dramatize our concern in the form of direct action” (Clark). By June 1966, a successful boycott of central area schools was carried out to protest the lack of movement in the area of desegregation. For two days, boycott leaders urged families of black students to keep their children out of school as a means of protesting the school boards indifference toward integration. Not to be confused with a holiday, both days of the boycott provided each student with a true educational experience; they were sent to freedom schools where they learned about black history, life, and culture. Ultimately, nobody truly wanted the boycott to happen. Officials did not wish to intimidate school authorities but rather provoke them into some sort of positive action. In the end the boycott proved to be a great success because people were beginning to acknowledge the issues concerning de facto segregation (Clark). Faced with the threat of further legal action from advocates of integration and due to increased pressure from the NAACP, the Seattle School Board set the city on the path paved by the Brown decision when it adopted a policy for creating racially integrated middle schools. This policy is what ultimately made the Seattle Plan possible (Pieroth, 50). The Middle School Desegregation Plan was implemented by the school board on November 11, 1970, the first mandatory, non-court ordered plan employed by the board. Meany- Madrona Middle school was a perfect example of the effects of this policy. Housed in the central district, Meany-Madrona was desegregated by creating Middle schools out of three predominantly white junior highs in the north end and mandatorily assigning students O. 4 between buildings. This was the first phase, in the three phase effort to desegregate the city by 1973, however, phase two and three were never administered due to intense opposition in the white community toward mandatory desegregation (Siqueland, 13). After several more years of debate and with the threat of yet another lawsuit looming over their heads, the School Board tried once again to initiate a more effective integration program. At the time Seattle was a very prideful city, it wanted nothing to do with court intervention, and wanted nothing less than to see civil unrest due to outside influence. The school board responded with what is known as the Seattle Plan, a comprehensive desegregation program recommended by Superintendent David Moberly. The plan drew from the Urban League’s Triad Program, and essentially clustered elementary schools into grade reconfigured pairs or triads. It also introduced the idea of “feeder programs” that assigned students from elementary school to middle school, then to high school (Siqueland 3; Tate, “Bussing”). However, probably the most important component of the plan was the expanded bus system that included all schools throughout the district (Tate, “Bussing”). At 2:00 in the Afternoon on December 14, 1977, the seven members Seattle School Board voted six-to-one, to adopt the administrative guidelines for the Seattle Plan for the Elimination of Racial Imbalance. This action caused Seattle to become the largest metropolitan school district in the nation to end public school segregation without a court order (Siqueland 4; Tate, “Bussing”). The plan was based on a complicated formula that defined segregation in terms of the ratio of white to nonwhite students in the school district. The new Seattle Plan divided the District into three zones. They were: Zone I – Franklin, Ingraham, Ballard, Queen Anne/ McClure Zone II – Hale, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Garfield Zone III – Queen Anne/Blaine, West Seattle, Cleveland, Rainier Beach, Chief Sealth Each zone included schools at all grade levels and included schools that were attended by mostly minority students and others attended by mostly white students. Additionally, in each zone there were fixed assignments, meaning schools were linked in groups of two or three and students would go to those set schools (Seattle Public Schools, 1). The Seattle Plan peacefully went into effect in September 1978. Support for the plan was very high. A broad coalition of political leaders and community groups including the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, Chamber of Commerce, and the urban league were very optimistic about the new plan (Tate, “Bussing”). However not everyone jumped O. 5 on the desegregation band wagon; six weeks after the plan went into effect, an anti-bussing initiative sponsored by the Citizens for Voluntary Integration Committee passed with the approval of 61 percent of the city’s voters, but it was later declared unconstitutional and thrown out (Tate, “Bussing”). The Seattle Plan was met with many successes however it wasn’t perfect and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was responsible for furthering problems within the school district. White Flight was a major issue that resulted from the plan. Essentially, “White- flight” is a colloquial term for the demographic trend where working-class white people move away from racial-minority suburbs or inner-city neighborhoods to white suburbs and exurbs (“White Flight”). White parents were taking their children out of public schools in Seattle to prevent their children from being bussed out of their neighborhoods. In the first year of district-wide busing, the number of white students dropped by nearly 12 percent (Tate, “Bussing”). The district wanted to appeal to the whites, in order to do this the school board introduced options like advanced placement and classes for the gifted. Most of the students who benefited from the options where white, and thus, segregated classrooms persisted even under the Seattle plan (Tate, “Bussing”). In an interview, Donald Felder, principal of Interagency Academy expressed concerns about the discrepancy between black and white educations. He says, “In the name of trying to get integrated schools, white families were offered the best of the best if they’d bring their kids to school with children of color” (Tate, “Bussing”). In this way, the Seattle plan perpetuated ideas of black inferiority because whites where given better opportunities and evidently, thrived. Seattle’s desegregation plans were genuine, I’m sure, and Seattle’s story may have reflected the sentiment of a community who legitimately wanted equality, however the results were disproportionate for the simple fact that race still played a major role in the school system. In practice, the plan was a test to see how well you were able to manipulate the system and avoid integration (Tate, “Bussing”). A five – year review of the Seattle plan showed that only half the students in mandatory assignments were showing up; the rest were either moving out of public schools or exploring the options program (Tate, “Bussing”). The history leading up to the adoption of the Seattle Plan is a chronology of togetherness, where city leaders gathered toward one common goal of affecting change in the community. However, in the end, we came up short and once again it was left up to the oppressed to shoulder the burden of inequality. O. 6 Works Cited Clarke, Brooke. "Seattle School Boycott of 1966." Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project. 01 Apr 2007. 20 Mar 2008 <http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/school_boycott.htm>. Gregory, James. "Racial Restrictive Covenants." Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History project. 01 Apr 2007. 25 Mar 2008 <http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/covenants.htm>. Pieroth, Doris. "With All Deliberate Caution: School Integration in Seattle, 1954-1968." Pacific Northwest Quarterly 73:250-61. Seattle Public Schools, Report of the Superintendents Task Force on Desegregation Planning. 1. Seattle: 1972. Siqueland, Ann. Without A Court Order: The Desegregation of Seattle Schools. 1. Seattle: Madrona Publishers, Inc., 1981. Tate, Cassandra. "Busing in Seattle: A Well-Intentioned Failure." HistoryLink.org: The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. 2002. 25 Mar 2008 <http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=3939>. Tate, Cassandra. "Mandatory busing of Seattle middle school students begins on September 6, 1972." HistoryLink.org: The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. 2002. 25 Mar 2008 <http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=3939>. Tate, Cassandra. "Seattle School Board adopts a limited mandatory busing plan on O. 7 November 11, 1970.." HistoryLink.org: The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. 2002. 25 Mar 2008 <http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=3941>. Turnbull, Lornet. "Homeowners find records still hold blot of racism." The Seattle Times 03 June 2005 25 Mar 2008 <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002297312_covenants03m.h tml>. "White Flight." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 23 Apr 2008. 23 Apr 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight>.
Pages to are hidden for
"Call to Action Desegregation in Seattle Public Lakeside School"Please download to view full document