Pasadena Busing Controversy, Sept. 14, 1970


Students arriving by school bus in early 70s (Photo - The U.S. National Archives).

Students arriving by school bus in early 70s (Photo – The U.S. National Archives).

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. In the 1970s and 1980s, and under federal court supervision, many school districts started implementing mandatory busing plans within their district. This busing system would force children of Pasadena, who attended public schools, to take the bus in order to encourage integration of all the different races that lived in the city.

By Roxanne Elhachem

The busing proposition in Pasadena brought mixed emotions for its citizens. Although many were happy about the social progression that was occurring in this town, it may have indirectly kept, if not increased, some of the segregation within the city.

Private schools were not included in this new plan, and because of that, people who didn’t agree with the plan — and could afford it — sent their kids to affluent private schools. This lead to around 30 private schools (currently 53) being present in the city of Pasadena.

Throughout the testing and applying of this plan in the city, buses started taking fewer and fewer of the privileged children, generally white at the time. This gradually showed that the busing system ended up busing less fortunate families, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, causing the plan to contradict its purpose and continue the segregation in the area rather than improve and integrate it.

Forty plus years later

Although the idea had great potential, it did not deliver as well as it was projected to and had caused the city to take a step back. The controversy even continued later on in 2002, when city officials decided to come together and attempt to revise or find a solution from there. However, over 40 years later, the issue still remains unsolved.

Roxanne Elhachem, born and raised in Burbank, has a Bachelor’s degree in Television and Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Business Administration from Chapman University.

> Below is a news clip from 1970 that focuses on the start of desegregation-via-busing in the Pasadena school district and the signing of an anti-busing bill by then California Governor Ronald Reagan. The clip also features McKinley School, Al Lowe and Frank C. Crowburst among others.

Roxanne Elhachem
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4 comments to “Pasadena Busing Controversy, Sept. 14, 1970”
  1. My mother was very involved in this. Very political. Everyone loved having neighborhood schools, walking to school together and not having to stand on a corner in the dark to get bused across town. Her take was Mr Emery with his bus company got it pushed through and made millions. His buddies in politics was given favors and it went through. He made his millions but his many wives took most of it. Ha ha, Karma. The whole thing has pretty much failed and going back to neighborhood schools would probably be better.

  2. Another story that assumes that busing was a failure in Pasadena. Forgetting that for over a decade the numbers were steady and it was only after the effects of Prop. 13 on school budgets (mid 80s) that there was wholesale abandonment of the PUSD by “privileged” students. I wonder how many fewer race related problems there would be if we had continued desegregation, not only in the PUSD, but most of the country?

    • Wow – the White Privilege in this article is HEINOUS. My graduating class (1983) was the class impacted by busing – in a GOOD way. Despite the people protesting their children being bused to school (gasp!) and being FORCED to attend school with non-White children, those of us who stayed in the school system had the privilege of being in diverse environments, with students of different ethnicities and economic status. My mother taught in the district for 32 years, and my daughter is graduate of the district. We all benefited from attending schools that DIDN’T make exclusion their first priority.

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