The Filing of Morgan v Hennigan: 40 Years Ago March 15

Posted: March 14, 2012 by Donna Bivens in Uncategorized

March 15, 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of the filing of the Morgan v Hennigan case. This case was the basis for the June 1974 decision by Judge Garrity that was so central to Boston’s Busing/Desegregation crisis.  In this complaint, Black parents and students sought “an end to racial discrimination, segregation and unequal educational opportunity … conforming … to the following principles:

  1. Achievement of the greatest possible degree  of actual desegregation;
  2. Inclusion of suburban school systems as appropriate in the plan for desegregation,  in order to achieve, now and hereafter, the greatest possible degree of actual desegregation;
  3. Utilization of all necessary methods of integrating schools including rezoning, pairing, grouping, consolidation of schools, use of satellite zones and transportation;
  4. Desegregation of the faculty and staff of each school in the system;
  5. Inclusion of a specific program for eliminating racial discrimination in the hiring of faculty, staff and administrative personnel, including methods for overcoming the effects of past discrimination;
  6. Inclusion of a specific program for eliminating discrimination in the allocation of resources in the school system;
  7. Inclusion of specific proposals for providing a racially non-discriminatory educational program
  8. Inclusion of a specific program for making available on an equal basis the opportunity for all children to participate in all courses, curricula and programs within the system.”

This case was from the perspective of  Boston’s Black community and came after its 20 year struggle to make real Brown vs. Board of Education’s promise of ending legal segregation.  While their principles addressed their own struggle against systemic racism they also reflect a desire for opportunity for all. As we were discussing this anniversary,  BBDP Steering Committee member Barbara Lewis called our attention to some recent demands that a group of young activists made in 2011 about public education in the South Bronx:

1. We demand free quality education as a right guaranteed by the US Constitution.

2. We demand the dismantling of Bloomberg’s Panel for Educational Policy. We demand a new 13 member community board to run our public schools (comprised of parents, educators, education experts, community members, and a minimum of 5 student representatives).

3. We demand quality instruction. Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body. We demand experienced teachers who have a history of teaching students well. Teacher training should be intensive and include an apprenticeship with master teachers as well as experiences with the communities where the school is located.

4. We demand stronger extra-curricular activities to help stimulate and spark interest in students. Students should have options, opportunities, and choice in their education.

5. We demand a healthy, safe environment that does not expect our failure or anticipate our criminality. We demand a school culture that acknowledges our humanity (free of metal detectors, untrained and underpaid security guards, and abusive tactics).

6. We demand that all NYC public school communities foster structured and programmatic community building so that students, teachers, and staff learn in an environment that is respectful and safe for all.

7. We demand small classes. Class sizes should be humane and productive. We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1.

8. We demand student assessments and evaluations that reflect the variety of ways that we learn and think (portfolio assessments, thesis defenses, anecdotal evaluations, written exams). Student success should not depend solely on high stakes testing.

9. We demand a stop to the attack on our schools. If a school is deemed “failing”, we demand a team of qualified and diverse experts to assess how such schools can improve and the resources to improve them.

10. We demand fiscal equity for NYC public schools: as stated in the Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007 by the NYS Legislature, NYC public schools have been inadequately and inequitably funded. We demand the legislatively mandated $7 billion dollars in increased annual state education aid to be delivered to our schools now!

In many ways these demands parallel the Morgan v Hennigan principles. Though from different cities and eras, when put side by side these speak to the systemic nature of our collective struggle for quality education. They represent  the cross-generational, cross-culture and class desire and work to clarify what we mean by quality education, to learn from what we attempt in search of it,  and to rethink our path to truly transformational change  base d on what we learn.

This spring, we will have an official marking of thisMoragn v Hennigan filing anniversary  in a Black community convening called The Black Context: Education, Equity and Excellence  to continue to get a sense of what we need to know from that community’s  perspective in order to really learn from this history.  We will also do a program at the Boston Bar Association to listen to their sense of the history and context for the crisis. We know this is just a part of the story though an important part—as all are.

As we learn from and hear the truth of various communities relationship to this crisis—their contexts, histories and cultures—we can better understand that era and its legacy today. We  look forward to continue to learn with BBDP’s ever-growing Learning Network  about these benchmarks in this history. There are a plethora of resources about this era that we are thrilled to tap but just as importantly, we must tap our diverse stories, perspectives,  and histories to get to the root of the history we want to move from and the history we must ground in to bring about real transformation.

  1. G. Richardson says:

    A Call For A Class Action Lawsuit Against The Boston Public Schools:

    Black children are our future. Our children’s future was robbed from them during busing and
    now today. During busing many black youth dropped out of school, were arrested for defending themselves against angry stop forced busing opponents and they were robbed
    of receiving a quality education. Since then, as the Black student enrollment increased to 90% and White enrollment dropped significantly; the quality of education at BPS drastically declined.
    Today History is repeating itself. The Boston Public School system continues to fail to provide a quality education to our children and then blames Parents and Students for
    their failures. Some of these schools have a 43% high school graduation rate and
    continues to remain open. The Superintendent of BPS has had to close these under-performing schools in order to make instructional changes,
    A grave injustice has been inflicted upon our youth. And our community, has not done
    anything about it. As a result, many of our youth are uneducated, unemployed and
    unengaged. We can look forward to a dismal future. High crime, children raising children,
    and locked in poverty.

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