The desegregation of Boston’s public schools began with the implementation of the of the State Board’s Short-Term Plan in September 1974. That plan became the basis of Phase I of a total desegregation effort. Redistricting and student transportation were the principle desegregation techniques employed to satisfy the Massachusetts Racial Imbalance Act of 1965. Phase I did not provide for faculty desegregation or new educational programs. In addition, not all areas saw a direct impact. Under Phase I, at the elementary level, the districts of Brighton, West Roxbury, South Boston, and the Reedville area of Hyde Park were left partially unscathed. The areas omitted from Phase I witnessed resistance, protests, violence, that transpired at the start of the 1974 school year.
The youngest of those who witnessed and experienced forced busing in its early stage were the elementary students. Through letters and school assignments, these young children expressed their understanding of the situation and their concern for other children. Their voices share a common innocence that through the years has been forgotten. They offer “simple” solutions and pray for peace, reminding all those who study this period of Boston’s history, that every person young and old felt the effects of forced busing.
When the official news about busing came, many parents tried to enroll their students in private or parochial schools. Although religious groups offered prayer and support, many asked parents to remain in the public school system and support integration. From September of 1974 to September of 1975, 3,650 elementary students left the Boston Public School system. In many cases, white families moved out of the city, but others simply sought private education to keep their children segregated. Those unaffected under Phase I knew that Phase II would soon affect their districts in 1975. Originally, the State Board projected that Phases I and II would would result in the busing of over 7,000 elementary students. In actuality, the number of elementary students bussed dropped to 5,860 because parents sought alternatives to forced integration.
Young children formed their own opinions and had their own concerns about bussing. and they wrote emotionally charged letters to Mayor Kevin H. White. Some letters offered prayer and others offered advice. Each child's letter illustrates that they understood the circumstances and hoped to help in some way.
On October 31, 1974, the district court ordered the school committee to submit a Phase II plan for total desegregation of Boston's schools in September 1975. The Masters' Phase II plan affected schools in all areas of the city except East Boston. The plan required a revision of attendance zones and grade structures, construction of new schools and closing of old schools. A formula was provided by which students could apply to attend a school within their community, but could not select a specific school. Assignment at a community school was guaranteed to elementary school students.
Part of the Master's plan recommended the closing of several schools. Along with these schools was the proposal of ending the Advanced Work Program and the seventh and eighth grades of the Boston Latin School. The Advanced Work Program offered students with greater learning abilities the chance to excel in a structured classroom with equally gifted students. The Maurice J. Tobin School of Roxbury offered Advanced Classes to black students, many of whom desired to attend Boston Latin School. Students in the fourth and fifth grade, along with their parents, sent a barrage of letters to Judge Garrity to persuade him not to rule in favor of terminating both advanced classes as well sixth and seventh grades at Boston Latin.