Forced Busing does NOT Work

Forced Busing does NOT Work

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Forced Busing does NOT Work

There are many reasons why forced busing is not an adequate way to solve the segregation problem caused in the early twentieth century. For example, many minorities are against forced busing. In Milwaukee, sixty six percent of the urban population is against forced busing (Williams and Borsuk, 1999). This is very surprising considering that minorities are the very people that forced busing is aimed at helping. Why would minorities despise a program designed to benefit them? Busing minorities to primarily white schools is basically telling minorities that they can’t be educated adequately without sitting next to white people (Kreyche, 1992). This is extremely degrading for minorities. Professor Kevin Brown who has completed many studies concerning forced busing concludes that the initial reason behind forced busing was fewer resources in black schools. Brown states that the current reason for forced busing is the absence of white students in black schools.

Forcing students of different ethnic backgrounds to sit next to each other is by no means integration (Coeyman, 1998). This practice is actually creating a hot zone for racism. Studies have shown that elementary school children seem to be unaffected by race. However, once these children become middle and high school students, society seems to come down on them and the students align themselves along racial boundaries (Amor, 1995) . Mandated busing gives the impression that whites are superior and blacks are inferior because the government tells them that blacks needs whites to receive an education. This argument comes to a head when the students sit next to each other in a high school class.

The recent studies conducted by the American Psychological Association are not the first to focus the factors that influence how people learn. The vast majority of the studies show that the main factors influencing learning are biological factors and family conditions. Researchers have concluded that students are born with different learning capacities, which are reinforced by the way their families feel about education. Students who come from families with one parent or a family with a parent or sibling involved with crime tend to learn at a slower pace than do children who come from families with two parents. Minority students come from “broken homes” more often than do white students. Hence, the conditions within the school may not be the reason for lower test scores among minorities.

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The reason may lie within the environment in which the child is brought up.

Is forced busing considered education? Members of the North Carolina Education Alliance don’t believe so. Their argument is that forced busing is more of an act of brainwashing than education. Many others agree with this idea. By busing minority students to white schools, the school system is telling them that they need white children to learn. In addition, by forcing minority and white kids together, the school system is telling them that they should be friends and cooperate with one another. If forced busing was aimed at education, the school system would go further and educate the races about each other. The school system finds it easier to manipulate children than to educate them.

Effects of Busing

Forced busing had many more negative effects on society, especially minorities, than positive effects. Busing students long distances is an expensive procedure. It is estimated that New York City alone spends $13 million per year to bus students (Jenkins, 1995). This is a complete waste of money. This funding could be better spent to improve the conditions of schools attended by minorities. Many schools which minorities attend are not of the same quality as schools attended by whites. It would be much more practical to improve the quality of schools than to send minorities to white schools. This would eliminate the hostility among minorities and whites and still improve the resources available to minority students (Lukas, 1990).

Current segregation in the school system is not completely the result of government-imposed segregation during the mid-twentieth century. People of different backgrounds tend to segregate themselves. Forced busing is believed to be the major cause of “white flight”(Douglas, 1997). White flight is the recent trend of white families who are moving from urban school districts in favor of suburban districts where forced busing is not a common practice. In recent years, various poles have shown that populations in many of the nation’s cities have been steadily decreasing. Most of the people leaving the cities have been white.

Furthermore, the numbers behind forced busing legislation no longer seem as convincing as they once did. When forced busing rulings came down in Buffalo, the schools that The Buffalo News studied were fifty percent non-white (Cardinale and Collison, 2001). A follow-up survey that took place in April 2001, showed that these same schools were seventy two percent non-white. It seems that the government has taken a school that was racially balanced and turned it into a school that is mainly attended by minorities. The objective of achieving a favorable ratio between white and minority students has not been achieved by government-mandated busing plans.

Sending students to schools in other areas of a city breaks apart communities (Wilson, 1998). One parent said that her daughter rarely gets to see her friends that live across the street because they go to schools that are nowhere near one another. Charles Yancey, City Councilor of Boston said that students should not be geographically restricted to where they can go to school. Under the current government plan, children are not being given an option of where to go to school. The students are being told that they will go to a certain school in another part of town. In addition, the students are being told that they no longer have the option of attending a school with their friends that may be only minutes down the road.

Proponents of forced busing also hoped that it would help in other aspects of society. Judge Garrity, the judge who initially passed a forced busing ruling in Boston, and his supporters thought that exposing minorities to whites would decrease the crime rate and also improve the family situation of minority students. This wishful thinking proved to be false. During the 1960’s, before forced busing became an issue, ten percent of all minority children were illegitimate. A study in 1997 conducted in areas that had been exposed to forced busing showed very startling results. Sixty seven percent of all minority children in 1997 were illegitimate. The cause of this may not be related to forced busing. However, forced busing was not an anecdote to the problem as was initially thought possible. Drug usage, crime rates, and breakdowns occurring within families were also not cured by forced busing legislation.

One explanation for forced busing is known as the “Hostage Theory (Connolly, 1998).” This theory is popular among parents of Boston students who are subjected to forced busing. The theory states that students are being held hostage by the school system. The ransom being requested by the school board is complete cooperation of the parents with the forced busing legislation. The school board claims that once parents cooperate, forced busing will have a positive impact on public schooling.

A common criticism of parents is that the school system is gambling their children’s education on an experiment (Dewitt, 2002). Parents become outraged at the fact that their children are being treated like guinea pigs. Prior to the institution of forced busing, there was no evidence that it would have any positive impact whatsoever on the education of minorities. It is unacceptable to place the education of a child in jeopardy based on a whim of the government.

The Hostage Theory and criticisms by parents seem to have led parents to stop volunteering. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, after forced busing was instituted, participation in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) dropped in nearly all school systems that fell under forced busing. Parents felt that if the school system would not hear their opinions concerning their children’s education, they would not help the school system in its effort to make forced busing work. Instead of joining organizations benefiting the school system, parents joined organizations like Boston’s Children First. This group provided opposition to forced busing in favor of neighborhood school systems. The organization led rallies and more importantly law suits for people who felt they had been discriminated against by forced busing. One such lawsuit occurred when parents claimed that their child was not allowed to attend a school, which he wanted to attend solely because he was white. Boston’s Children First helped to win the suit and allow the student to attend the school of his choice.

What are minorities supposed to think when they are told that they need white people to learn? This is nearly as degrading as segregation in the 1960’s. The purpose of forced busing is to educate minorities. Not to tell minorities that they can’t learn unless they receive assistance from whites. The intentions of the framers of forced busing were just. However, the exorbitant amount of money that is spent on forced busing every year could be much better invested into the supplies that many schools attended by minorities seem to lack.

The impetus behind forced busing was the difference between standardized test scores of white students and of minority students. Many people thought that forced busing was the means to bridge this achievement gap. This has proven to be false. An article that was published in Time Magazine reported that African Americans did experience educational gains (Ipka, 1994). However, Ralph Scott, who works for Mankind Quarterly, contacted the schools cited in the Time article. Ralph Scott reports, “not a single official supported the claim that busing enhanced Black achievement (2001).” To avoid taking blame for falsely supporting forced busing, school officials blamed the reports on misquoting and poor writing by the media. I could not locate any other studies that supported the premise of minorities academically benefiting from forced busing.

Forced busing is an inconvenience to everyone involved. Students are forced to leave for school even earlier than normal because they have to ride a bus for a longer period of time. When a bus driver in a Omaha community under forced busing legislation was asked what complaints she hears, she replied, “Well, obviously the normal, the bus is late, the bus missed my child, they did not drop the child off at the right stop.” Parents are left everyday wondering if their child made it to school that day.

Not only is forced busing an inconvenience, it is also dangerous. Busing a child a long distance and keeping the child on the bus longer increases the probability of an accident. In addition, an elementary school child is not going to know how to react when he or she is dropped off at the wrong school and are placed in an environment they are not familiar with. Lastly, a student being further from home causes problems during bad weather. In November of 2000, thousands of Buffalo students were forced to find their own shelter on the opposite side of town because buses were not able to take the students home. Michael Mulvaney, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, believes that this event is the major reason that parents in Buffalo decided to provide opposition to forced busing.

Weather and busing is not the only dangerous combination. Students of different races being forced to sit together caused many riots in the early days of forced busing. In 1993, students at South Boston High participated in a large brawl involving black students pitted against white students. At the conclusion of the fight, five people ended up in the hospital. Two of these people were police officers and one was the mayor of Boston. Because of this uprising and others in the school’s history, police officers patrol the building and metal detectors are placed at all the entrances to the school.

Why didn’t these effects come out earlier?

Many supporters of forced busing ask if this information is true, wouldn’t it have come out earlier? Due to public sentiment during the 1970’s, the answer is no. Most opponents were afraid to speak out against forced busing because they did not want to be called racist. According to Julian Stanley, President of the Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association, “most measurement specialists feared speaking out as busing facts were twisted, while those who did speak up were likely to be labeled racists or at least liberal.” Stanley went further to describe how many scholars who conducted studies of forced busing and discovered unfavorable results were forced to alter their results to conform with the position of the government and the current majority.

Forced busing has no positive effects on society. It is a costly measure and does not achieve its main purpose of bridging the achievement gap between whites and minorities. The government should not force students to be bused to other schools to achieve a racial balance. Former Boston mayor Thomas Menino had it right when he was asked to comment on children being bused to other schools. He said, “Parents should make that decision. Not the politicians(1999).”



Agnes, Michael. (2002). Force. In Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus.
(p. 249). New York: Hungry Minds, Inc.

The definition in this source was used to find synonyms for “forced”.


Armor, David J. (1995). Forced Justice: School desegregation and the law. New York: Oxford.

This source discusses how desegregation efforts aren't necessary because races segregate themselves again later by the places they choose to live.


Jenkins, Kenneth. (1995, November 17). Yonkers NAACP head condemns busing. Human Events, Volume 51 (Issue 44), p. 6. Retrieved March 4, 2003, from Ebsco Academic Search Premier database.

This source quotes a chapter chief of the NAACP who believes that forced busing is no longer necessary and is a waste of money paid by taxpayers.

Kreyche, Gerald F. (1992 November). Social engineering is off the track. USA Today Magazine, Volume 21 (Issue 2570), p. 98. Retrieved March 4, 2003 from Ebsco Academic Search Premier database.

This source describes how the quality of teachers is decreased because teachers of lower quality are hired simply to meet racial quotas imposed by the government.


Cardinale, Anthony, & Collison, Kevin. (2001, April 24). Parents back plan to end busing. The Buffalo News, p. A1.

This source describes the dangers of forced busing. The source also describes how busing breaks apart communities.

Mehren, Elizabeth. (1999 February 18). Boston Mayor’s plan to end busing causes minority concern. L.A. Times.

This source discusses the cost of forced busing and also who should hold the power in deciding where kids go to school.


Lukas, Anthony J. (1990, Fall). The middle-class flight from public schools. New Perspectives Quarterly, Volume 7 (Issue 4). Retrieved March 6, 2003, from Ebsco Academic Search Premier database.

Busing programs caused middle-class families of all races to abandon public schools, especially in downtown Boston, and move to school districts in the suburbs or pay for their children to attend private schools.

Scott, Ralph. (2001, Fall). Tracking in schools: can American social scientists objectify such a sensitive topic? Mankind Quarterly, Volume 42 (Issue 1). Retrieved March 6, 2003, from Ebsco Academic Search Premier database.

This source describes how forced busing actually increased the stress level of students of all races instead of providing racial equity and increased educational opportunities.

Coeyman, Marjorie. (1998, November 17). Keep buses rolling or roll them back? Christian Science Monitor, Volume 90 (Issue 247), p. 17. Retrieved March 4, 2003, from Ebsco Academic Search Premier database.

This source discusses how test scores of African Americans have decreased again after their initial decrease.

Douglas, Davison M. (1997, May). The end of busing? Michigan Law Review, Volume 95 (Issue 6), p.1715. Retrieved March 4, 2003, from Ebsco Academic Search Premier database.

This source describes White Flight and how forced busing promotes this concept.

Ipka, Vivian. (1994, March). The effects of school desegregation policies upon the achievement gap between African American and white students in the Norfolk public schools. Journal of Instructional Psychology, Volume 21 (Issue 1), p. 49. Retrieved March 4, 2003, from Ebsco Academic Search Premier database.

This source describes the lack of effect that forced busing had on the test scores of minority students.


Dewitt, Thomas Paul. (2002, January). To learn? Kids are not lab experiments. [10 paragraphs.] North Carolina Education Alliance. Available

This source describes how forced busing is an experiment that is using kids as guinea pigs.

Connolly, D. J. Twenty-million ruined educations. [46 paragraphs.] Available

This source introduces the Hostage Theory and it’s implications in relation to forced busing.

Wilson, Donna. (1998, April 17). Bus stop: What Omaha has learned from busing. [39 paragraphs.] Statewide Interactive. Available

This source describes the dangers of forced busing and how it breaks apart communities and moves children from their friends.

25 years of forced busing. [89 paragraphs.] Available

The site focuses on the effects of Judge Garrity's decision to institute forced busing as a means to desegregate schools. The site examines forced busing in various cities and also the impact busing had on these cities.
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