In 1971, in compliance with a federal mandate, LISD implemented forced school busing. The program was part of a massive desegregation plan to ensure a racial balance in public schools. At that time LISD began busing classrooms of students from one side of the city to the other, and vice-versa. The program was mandated by federal courts and was met with outrage and emotional resistance. But, it served it's purpose for 25 years and was said to have worked and worked well.
By the 1990's LISD had been busing students by court order for more than two decades. It was just another part of the school day. "We just took classrooms. We'd move this class to a school on this side of the community and we'd move this class to a school on the other side. We had buses criss-crossing all over the city," says LISD Deputy Superintendent Wayne Havens.
"My kids were bused in the 1st grade and I wasn't in favor of it just because they were bused so far away from home," says one concerned parent. Despite resistance from parents district wide, the program is said to have been an exceptionally successful solution to integrating one race schools. "Not to say there wasn't anger, not to say there wasn't tears, because there were," says Havens.
But the community understood the situation, adapted and tolerated forced busing for more than two decades. Then, in the early '90's, LISD applied with the government to discontinue the program, and in 1995 it was dissolved entirely. "At that point, parents across the community believed we had achieved everything possible with this process. They were ready for children to be close to home," says Havens.
But dropping the program in 1995 was met with equal emotion to the implementation of it nearly 25 years earlier. Some embraced it, while others questioned it.
This month, LISD is entering its seventh school year without forced busing. Havens says there is no longer a benefit to forced school busing as long as every school in the district is treated fairly. Havens also says agendas like the Magnet Program along with curriculums that are culturally diverse have made forced busing obsolete. In addition, anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 students in the district attend schools other than what is considered their home campus by choice, helping to diversify the district.
"Our kids get a quality education anywhere they are in this district," says Havens.