The 1954 U.S Supreme Court’s historic decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, but the court failed to provide a remedy to achieve educational equality.
Seventeen years later, the Court had an answer when it affirmed the principle of busing school children to desegregate schools.
That decision placed Charlotte, N.C., in the spotlight. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg district was already under federal orders to desegregate its schools. Despite angry protests from white parents, it had implemented a plan with success.
To stop white flight, most of the bused students were black but there was one exception: white students were bused to West Charlotte High, the pride of the black community. After a rough first year, marred by racial fighting and boycotts, students – black and white – adjusted to one another. Three years later, West Charlotte was being hailed as a model of successful busing.
Despite that acclaim, busing was still being hotly debated across the country and in Charlotte. In 1997, several white parents sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district, claiming its quota system discriminated against their children.
A federal judge essentially agreed, saying that the district had met its constitutional obligation to integrate, so there was no longer any need for busing or quotas. Some black parents agreed, saying that busing was taking a toll on their families as well. The district soon put an end to busing, with striking results.
By 2007, the district that once prided itself on being a national model for racial integration – 40 percent black, 60 percent white – had become 88 percent black, and 1 percent white.
Today, the student population of West Charlotte High is made up of 98.5% minorities: 80.3% Black, 12.2% Hispanic, 3.6% Asian, 2.1% two or more races, 0.1% American Indian/Alaska Native and 0.1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.