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Boston Busing: Another Era

Boston's school committee voted 5-2 Wednesday night to end racial busing in the city, ending decades of trying to achieve racial balance in Boston's public schools.

But almost 25 years after the nation watched the issue of school busing lead to racial warfare on the streets of Boston, the picture has changed, reports CBS News Correspondent Russ Mitchell.

"Today, we are united," declared Mayor Thomas Menino at a press conference.

A rainbow coalition of Bostonians now say the bus stops here. Boston has become the latest in a growing list of cities to end race-based busing. It brought an end to a policy that began in 1975, after a federal judge ruled de-facto school segregation in Boston discriminated against black children.

"It's just a different world," says Paul Parks, Massachusetts' Secretary of Education in 1975.

"I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we have that excellent school system we want to have until we get over these kinds of things," he adds.

In the Boston of 1975, white students made up about 60 percent of the city's public schools. With busing, white flight took off, now minorities comprise 85 percent of the district.

Boston has been under pressure from a parents' group lawsuit, charging forced busing now discriminates against white students. Federal courts have already thrown out policies like Boston's in Denver, San Francisco and Rochester, New York. One educator finds the trend disturbing.

"What happens is the school boards are getting afraid, and are beginning to say, we can't win this case," says Harvard University professor Charles Willie. "I think it's outrageous that school boards are unwilling to take cases to the Supreme Court."

Boston's new system is set to begin in 2000, but that's not soon enough for some parents. They will go to court in two weeks to try to end race-based busing by this fall.