Desegregation and school busing has always been a complex and controversial issue in the Black community of Los Angeles. Since the LAUSD instituted school busing, magnet and integration programs in the 1970s, many Black parents have felt that they needed to have their children bused to predominantly White areas to receive a better quality of education or to learn in a safer environment.
However, when Black students are bused to White schools, many of these students suffer from alienation and isolation, and they do not get the same level of guidance, resources and interpersonal relationships that is available for Black students at predominantly Black schools.
As a high school teacher of 32 years at Dorsey High School, a school that has been predominantly Black for the majority of my career, I have talked to many students, parents, and families and have found that most Black students who were bused to White areas wished that they had been allowed to attend the Black schools that they were leaving behind.
It is their parents who did not want them to attend their neighborhood schools. Many wind up coming back from those areas where they felt alienated and thriving at Dorsey and other urban schools.
I spoke with several professional, and upwardly mobile Black parents and families who chose to send their children to their neighborhood schools instead of busing them, and this is what I found.
Miisha Davis, a teacher at 54th Street Elementary School, stated that she wanted her son Amir to attend Dorsey High School, where she is also an alumna, so that he could be a part of a welcoming community. She also wanted him to be taught by Black teachers who were from the same community.
She wanted more equitable, academic resources that would benefit Black students. These resources would be accessible to ALL students and not just Caucasian or Latinx students. Amir attended Dorsey from 2018-2022, graduated with honors and is now attending Tuskegee University.
Kevin LaFlora, a transit operator for MTA, and his wife, Georgia, who works for the City of Los Angeles, are strongly against school busing. All three of their children attended Dorsey High School.
LaFlora stated, “I was against busing my kids because I believe busing is just for statistical purposes to integrate our kids into what is considered to be a better school, but these schools do not have their best interest at heart, they are just using them for numbers.
“I believe that busing also builds a mentality of making Black students feel inferior to the other students they are on campus with. My experience with sending my kids to a school in their own community is that they can feel proud of who they are and strive to break the stereotypes that are created about learning among their peers,” she insisted.
“Lastly, I believe a better relationship can be built with the teachers and administrators of a school in your own community because of the convenience of not having to drive a great distance outside of your community.”
LaFlora’s oldest daughter Krystal graduated from Shaw University in 2018, and his sons, Kory and Kyle, will graduate this year from UCLA and University of the Pacific, respectively.
Rashidi Jones, an executive for Sony Pictures, and his wife, Sunny, a successful real estate agent and financial planner, expressed great passion about this topic. They believed that the notion of “making it out” has been a lie that Black communities have been told and has contributed to the Black community being stripped of its most progressive and resourceful elements.
“One of my son’s attended a predominantly White school district for middle school and one-year of high school until I got completely fed up with the lack of emotional support [and] of cultural affirmation toward his personal confidence and success,” Jones said.
“As responsible and resourceful parents, my wife and I swiftly took action and checked him in at my alma mater and our neighborhood school, Dorsey High School. This was the best decision we made for his education because it was conducive to exactly what he was missing. He needed that cultural experience so that when he looked at himself in the mirror he knew exactly who he was and he felt the support from his school and community and understood that we were all investing in his success,” he reasoned.
“Our local schools like Baldwin Hills Elementary, Audubon Middle School, Dorsey and Crenshaw High Schools offer Black faculty, administrators and leadership that feel more like family than anything else. After weighing the pros and cons, you have to ask yourself what you are really teaching your kids by not investing in Black communities,” questioned Jones, whose oldest son, Rahsaan, graduated from Dorsey in 2022 and is now attending Santa Monica College.
Ms. Sukari Garlington, who is the principal at Charles Barrett Elementary School in South L.A., reflected on her choice of schools for her son Malik.
“Malik requested to be around students that looked like him after attending Palms, a predominantly White middle school, and noticing how he was treated differently as a Black male student.,” recalled Garlington.
“We had to choose a high school that was rich in culture, and staff that understood the challenges that our young kids of color face today. Dorsey was that place. I walked the campus talking to the principal and observed that the staff knew students by name, and I saw teenagers displaying good conduct and engaging in school activities,” she said.
“I call Dorsey the hidden gem of Los Angeles. Dorsey embodies the appreciation of the students’ culture, offers multiple pathways for students to learn and caters to students being their authentic self!
“The fire academy program at Dorsey and having Black male teachers was the bonus. My child has been privileged to be a Dorsey Don and has been afforded so many opportunities to be a leader among his peers,” said Garlington.
Malik is currently an honor roll student, track athlete, and Fire Academy chief. He will be attending Cal Poly Pomona in the fall.
My findings reveal that urban and predominantly Black schools are very empowering for Black students. Currently in the Los Angeles area, USC is making an increased, focused and concentrated effort to provide services, resources, networking and outreach to the Black students in our urban communities and to keep them at their neighborhood schools. With USC being one of the top 50 universities in the country and with it being located in South L.A., parents are urged to take advantage of their support in public schools like Obama and Audubon Middle Schools.
USC is currently expanding the McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative program. This program is specifically recruiting African American students, providing a support structure to guide Black students through high school, and support them with their goals to attend college.
In partnership with USC and the Neighborhood Academic Initiative Program, a townhall community meeting will be held to discuss the pros and cons of School Busing for Black Students.
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