The School Segregation Situation

According to a 2011 study conducted by The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, Southern California ranks near the bottom when it comes to the issue of school segregation. The study concluded that the reasons behind the segregation are the backlash that followed the mandatory busing initiative of the 1970’s and the state government’s determination to bury the issue.

Criticizing the past can be very simple if one only looks at the big picture, but the idea of busing students around Southern California becomes increasingly ludicrous as the details of the plan come forward. In the 70’s, minority students in urban schools were bused to suburban, primarily white, schools in an attempt to integrate the schools. While these busing programs had varying degrees of success in more geographically standard cities, the busing situation quickly crumbled when it was implemented in the geographically massive Los Angeles.

According to an article from the Daily News from 1972, the longest bus ride would be from, “Bret Harte Junior High at 93rd and Hoover Sts. to Parkman Junior High in Woodland Hills.”

Thankfully, both of these schools are still in session in 2016 with different names. A quick search on Google Maps shows that these schools are about 32 miles apart. The amount of time it would take to go 32 miles in Los Angeles can range from 30 minutes to almost an hour and a half if there’s traffic like there most likely was during pickup and drop off times for schools.

Image courtesy of Google Maps. Imagine adding two or more hours of travel onto a 10 year old’s school day.

I know, based on my own school experience, that adding an hour commute to my day would have deterred me from all sorts of activities. I played football when I was in high school and my team made up a huge part of my social circle. I created lifelong friends in that team, and I can’t say that football would have been a part of my life if I had to take a bus for an hour after practice every day.

A group of mothers and children protest mandatory busing. Photo credit to the L.A. Times framework

At the same time, Westlake High School was not a very diverse place to study. Well over half of our students were either white or Asian with a small Latino population and a microscopic African American population. The class diversity was even less than the race diversity with a vast majority of the students being part of either middle or upper class families. I didn’t know a single person in my school of any race that didn’t either attend college or go into the military. It was an incredible learning environment with teachers that were committed to the student’s success. Looking back, it would have been a perfect place for some inner-city kids to learn, but the logistics of getting the kids there are absurd considering the closest city is Los Angeles, an hour drive without traffic away.