As Busing Fades Away, What Lies Ahead?

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It has never, ever been easy. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education decision struck down separate public schools for blacks and whites, coping with the aftermath has always been a struggle.

Now, more than four decades later, court battles that have dictated school decisionmaking for decades are winding down.

But as the days of desegregation by decree draw to a close, many schools and communities again find themselves in a period of painful transition.

This week, Education Week begins a three-part special report exploring the issues emerging as districts enter this uncharted territory.

Questions over how to preserve the perceived gains made under court-ordered plans--or to undo the perceived harm they inflicted--are bedeviling a growing number of school leaders. Policies of the past seem no longer to fit in a legal and political climate that looks with growing suspicion on drawing distinctions on the basis of race or ethnicity.

This uncertainty, moreover, is being compounded by demographic changes that have dramatically altered the nation's racial landscape. In many cities, the stark contrast of black and white that marked the integration battles of decades past no longer exists. An influx of Hispanics and Asian-Americans and the sharp decline of white enrollment in many districts have challenged the assumptions that underlay traditional approaches to desegregation.

The need to adjust to these changes is particularly pressing in communities where court cases have passed into history. But it is shared both by districts that have integrated voluntarily and the hundreds more that remain under some level of judicial supervision, yet sense that the end is in sight.

Vol. 17, Issue 39, Page 1

Published in Print: June 10, 1998, as As Busing Fades Away, What Lies Ahead?
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