The Prince George's County Board of Education last night appointed a citizens advisory committee to try to resolve the problem of school busing that has bitterly divided the board for a year.
With its only black member voting against the motion, the board set up a committee to "recommend means by which busing for desegregation can be reduced without simultaneously causing re-segregation of Prince George's County schools."
The committee must report by Feb. 1. The school board does not have to accept its recommendations.
Almost 80,000 students are bused to school in Prince George's each day, and busing has been controversial since a court desegregation order almost seven year ago.
Some board member say the busing has contributed to economic and social decline and, during the past year, have put forward several plans to reduce busing.
A month ago the board debated and rejected a proposal that would have returned 10,000 students to their neighborhood schools. At the same time, the plan would have allowed 10 predominantly one-race schools to exist within the system, an idea bitterly opposed by many blacks.
A last night's meeting, Bonnie F. Johns, the board's only black member, criticized the decision to appoint the committee, saying it was "one-dimensional . . . a smoke screen directing attention away from the problem of segregation."
She said the board's other members were so intent on reducing busing that they did not care whether that reduction would harm educational opportunities for some students.
The committee has 27 members. It was to have 30 -- three appointed by each of the nine regular board members plus the board's nonvoting student member -- but Johns declined to appoint any members.
The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, which have been the most vocal opponents of the board's efforts to reduce busing, refused to participate on the committee.