Spillane Publicly Airs Criticism Of Boston Judge’s Busing Order

By Susan G. Foster — June 16, 1982 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In private, Boston’s public school superintendent, Robert R. Spillane, has made no secret of the fact that he would like U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. to curtail his involvement in the administration of the city’s schools.

But now, Mr. Spillane is publicly declaring his dissatisfaction with court-ordered desegregation, saying that it is not working and should be replaced with an approach that will work. “There’s just no question that [the city’s public schools] are more segregated than before,” Mr. Spillane said during an interview last week.

“I was trying, in the past, to work cooperatively with the judge, but I think now he needs a nudge,” Mr. Spillane said of his decision to air publicly his views on the school system’s desegregation efforts. “The judge says he wants out, but we’re getting mixed signals.”

During the nine months he has served as the city’s superintendent, Mr. Spillane said, Judge Garrity has “frustrated our attempts to help him get out of the case.”

Mr. Spillane’s current source of irritation is Judge Garrity’s recent comments on the 40-page “working papers” that attorneys representing the school committee spent nearly a year preparing and that some have interpreted as meaning a rejection of the plan. The document would have paved the way for a legal settlement in the eight-year-old desegregation case and eventually terminated the court’s role in the city’s public schools. (See Education Week, Jan. 19, 1982.)

After reviewing the working papers, according to Mr. Spillane, Judge Garrity indicated that the final “consent decree” should reflect some 400 individual orders that he has issued throughout his involvement in the case.

“If the judge wants a consent decree in the form of an indexed order, he should hire a law clerk and put him to work to do it,” Mr. Spillane said.

The only issue to be resolved “is who should be managing and running the school system,” Mr. Spillane asserted. “He’s got to give us the flexibility to do it our way. [The Judge] has been here for eight years and the results speak for themselves.”

‘Fine Tuning’ the Document

Robert H. Bohn, a Boston attorney who has been coordinating the consent decree, explained that the school committee’s working paper has never been formally submitted to the court and that attorneys representing the various parties in the case are currently continuing the negotiations and are “fine tuning” the document.

So far, according to Mr. Bohn, Judge Garrity has only acknowledged receiving the draft and has commented that any proposed changes in his existing court orders be “explicitly” outlined.

“That has been interpreted as a rejection of the plan,” Mr. Bohn added. “But it was never intended to be acted upon by the judge.”

The Boston Public Schools have been under the partial control of Judge Garrity since 1974--two years after 14 black parents filed suit against the Boston School Committee charging that black students in the city’s public schools were not provided with the same educational opportunities as other students.

Since then, school officials and other special-interest groups have joined as parties in the suit and in implementing the court’s remedial orders. One such order requires, for example, that the number of black teachers in the school system not fall below 19 percent of the total number of teachers.

Prior to Judge Garrity’s comments on the school committee’s proposal, however, negotiations toward a consent decree seemed to have collapsed. In February, Larry J. Johnson, the attorney for the black plaintiffs, announced his withdrawal from the negotiating process, saying that he would work with his clients to draft an alternative plan to submit to the court. The alternative plan would address, among other things, the issue of student assignment. Mr. Johnson, who was critical of Judge Garrity’s decision to initiate the court’s removal from the start, has pushed for greater choice by parents in deciding which schools their children will attend.

Mr. Johnson’s decision to withdraw, however, concerned the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which petitioned and was permitted to intervene in the case on behalf of the black plaintiffs.

Referring to the current lack of parental choice in student assignment, Mr. Spillane said he is not totally opposed to open enrollment if certain “parameters” are established. “We may disagree on the details, but I agree more with the black plaintiffs than I do with the judge,” Mr. Spillane said.

Citing the time spent by the school system’s attorneys and the expense, Mr. Spillane said that he would like to make a recommendation to the school committee that they too withdraw from the consent decree process. But so far, he has not made such a recommendation.

Despite Mr. Spillane’s desire to withdraw from the negotiations, Mr. Bohn said that “there has been absolutely no change on the part of the lawyers” who are currently involved in the consent-decree process. “The process has survived what the critics have been saying about it.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 16, 1982 edition of Education Week as Spillane Publicly Airs Criticism Of Boston Judge’s Busing Order

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP