Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ruling evokes memories of busing

Veteran teacher recalls 1970s' tensions

Mike Amburgy began his teaching career during the tense years when busing began in Jefferson County schools, and he plans to retire as the district's longtime desegregation policy comes to a close....

"I was used to seeing demonstrations on television but had never personally witnessed any violent confrontations."

That changed in Louisville.

During the first football game of the season, he saw "the ugly face of racism" -- a Ku Klux Klan member standing outside the school with a sign reading "NO INTEGRATION." Later he witnessed a KKK demonstration on Dixie Highway, in front of Valley High School.

But he remained enthusiastic about teaching at [Jesse] Stuart High, until he lived through a race riot that erupted from a fight between two boys. At one point, he said, he saw a white girl break her own nose while swinging a homemade weapon.

"The faculty tried to break it up, but in a school of 1,700 students, our efforts were futile," he wrote. "The uniformed school police were called and then the county police were called, and it wasn't until 1 before all the fights were broken up and the fighters were either arrested or sent home.

… There was blood on the floors, tear gas in the halls."

Later, Amburgy was asked to sponsor a "human relations club" with an African-American teacher, and it held meetings with white and black students in which they could come together and share their feelings....

...Valley High School, where the KKK once demonstrated, now has an African-American principal. Biracial couples are an accepted part of society, he said, and most students seem to abhor discrimination.

Amburgy said he's hopeful about the future and optimistic that the recent Supreme Court ruling might eventually bring a better school system. But he also wonders whether schools might "pretty much re-segregate."

"Society has changed," he said. "Has it changed enough that we can go back to local schools? I don't know."

This from the Courier-Journal.

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