Busing, also called desegregation busing in the United States, busing was the practice of transporting students to schools within or outside their local districts as a means of rectifying racial segregation. The landmark US Supreme Court decision handed down in 1954 did not end racial discrimination owing to trends in housing and neighborhood segregation. Busing came to be the first remedy by which the courts sought to end racial segregation in schools in the United States. It was also a source of what was arguably the biggest controversy in American education in the later 20th century.
Separate but Equal doctrine
In 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that segregated public services that were distinct but equal did not violate the U.S. Constitution. The ruling was used for decades to defend and support the racial segregation of various public services, including schools. The court overturned itself half a century later in Brown v. Board of Education by declaring that the doctrine of separate but equal did, in fact, violate the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. It would nearly be two decades before the courts enacted practices to enforce practices by desegregation. In 1971, the Supreme Court let stand the practice of using mandatory busing to racially integrated schools.
While the Swann case dealt with schools in the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, the ruling had far-reaching implications as it allowed the practice to continue in multiple cities across the United States. The court subsequently placed limitations on the Swann case in a 1974 ruling that mandatory busing across school district boundaries could be implemented only where it could be shown that communities had enacted policies that caused the original segregation.
Arguments by Busing opponents
Opponents of forced busing argued that the neighborhoods to which children were being bused were not safe and that the children’s overall education would suffer as a result. They were also against to the increased time it took to transport to and from school which they claimed that it reduced the amount of time available for the children to study and do their homework. The opponents also blamed the distance between homes and student schools for lowering participation in extracurricular and curricular activities as well as parental involvement in schools and volunteerism. There were also budget concerns about the impact of operating a greater number of buses and other means of transportation for longer distances each day.