Date of Award

8-2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Douglas Davidson

Second Advisor

Dr. Thomas Van Valey

Third Advisor

Dr. Paula Brush

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Cheryle Crawford

Abstract

This study focuses on the socio-history of the Benton Harbor Area School District's ("BHASD") desegregation froth 1967 when Berry v School District of TheCity of Benton Harbor , C.A. 9 W.D. Mich. (1967) ("Berry ") was filed until 1981, when the court-ordered busing took effect. The purpose is to write a socio-historical analysis of BHASC Board of Education (BHASC Board) decisions regarding racial balance and imbalance in BHASC schools. Specifically, I study theBHASD Board, the administration, and the community concerning the following socio-historically relevant decisions: (1) the transfer of students from theSodus attendance district in the BHASD to the Eau Claire Public School District; (2) employment practices; i.e., hiring of and placement of minority staff, 1967-1980; (3) the use of buildings within the district and the use of portable classrooms.

I present background information on school desegregation in three perspectives. This includes socio-historical information, research findings on methods and results of school desegregation, and a study of local Michigan districts which have undergone court-enforced desegregation.

I develop the following research questions to provide a focus for sociohistorical analysis of the BHASD Board's decisions: (1) What was the situational environment in which each decision was made by the BHASD Board? (2) How did the community react to the BHASD Board's decision? (3) Was the effect ofeach decision more or less segregation in the BHASD schools? (4) At the time of the decision did the BHASD Board have choices or options which would possibly have resulted in a less segregated situation?

The transfer of students from the Sodus school, part of the BHASD schools, to the Eau Claire Public Schools was a major decision which led to more segregation. Following that decision five other schools applied for transfer from BHASD. The placement of academic staff added to the imbalance in several elementary schools. At four of the five elementary schools, each of which had an enrollment of more than 80% black students, the school administration placed portable classrooms to relieve overcrowding rather than transfer the black students to white elementary schools. When a new building was purchased for use as a junior high school, it was located in a residential area which had primarily black residents. This resulted in more segregation within the district.

The federal district court was involved in the Berry case and its remedy from 1967 until 2002. Because the case covered more than three decades, there were marry changes in school administrators and school board members. There were three federal district court judges who, during different time periods, presided over the case. Many people spent years trying not only to enjoin the enforcement of unconstitutional laws and to prohibit new violations, but also to eliminatethe continuing effects of past violations.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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