Boston schools take new look at civil rights

Educators want students to understand segregation had impacts beyond the South
By: | Issue: April, 2015
March 20, 2015

Though known as a cradle of American history in colonial times, Boston was also a hotbed of desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s.

Boston Public Schools has mandated a new curriculum to teach students about the civil rights movement in the city. The History of Boston Busing and Desegregation curriculum marks the 40th anniversary of the decisionÑwhich was controversial in 1974Ñto desegregate city schools and allow children to be bussed outside of their neighborhoods.

While many Boston history and social studies classes already cover the city’s history of civil rights, making it mandatory for grades 3 through 12 will greatly benefit students, says Kerry Dunne, the district’s history and social studies director, who co-wrote the curriculum.

Though many high-profile segregation cases happened in the SouthÑsuch as Brown vs. Board of EducationÑstudents will learn what occurred in their hometown and consider views of racial inequality in America, Dunne says.

“We want to take away the misperception that segregation only happened in the South and remind students that it was truly a national issue,” Dunne says. “Segregation also happened in their own backyard.”

Boston Public Schools worked with several local organizations, like the Boston Public Library and the Union of Minority Neighbors, to develop online lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school teachers. The curriculum’s website includes over 200 resourcesÑincluding newspaper articles, images, and video and audio interviews that share people’s different perspectives of the civil rights movement in the city.

Dunne says she hopes learning about the past will inspire students to defend civil rights in the future.

“Many of our students will stay in Boston, and we want them to know about their city’s history and be good citizens,” she says. “As they grow up, we hope they recognize the importance of students having equal access to education, no matter who they are.”