A decision by the Prince William County school board to redraw school boundaries and bus some students up to 20 miles has angered many parents, who say they will take their case to the state legislature.
"They've just pushed too many people into a corner this time and we are not going to take it anymore," said Judie Cook, spokeswoman for a number of parents who oppose the board's decision to revert to busing to help fill partially empty schools.
According to Cook, the parents are considering whether they should press for state legislation that would make such busing illegal or file a lawsuit against the board in an effort to block the plan.
Whatever happens, said Cook, "We are going to lobby like no one has ever seen to get the state legislature to make these school boards elected boards, not dictatorships."
Currently, school board members in Prince William are appointed by the Board of Supervisors rather than elected by the public. Appointed school board members are the rule throughout the state.
Board members defended their decision after the meeting, saying uneven growth in the county has led to underused schools in some areas and overcrowded ones in other sections.
Parents said they would rather send their children to an overcrowded school in their own community than have them bused for up to an hour on county roads they consider dangerous. Students said they would miss their friends. They also fear they will be unable to participate in some after-school activities for lack of a ride home.
Cook said about 100 parents are involved in the possible group action against the board, but not all of them have children who are threatened with busing.
"We feel if it can happen to them, it can happen to any of us," said Cook, whose own children are not affected by the busing plan.
Some parents said area Del. Floyd Bagley already has indicated an interest in sponsoring a state anti-busing bill. They said they also expect support from the southern part of the state, where many students are bused to achieve integration.
School Board Chairman Gerard Cleary dismissed the threat of a lawsuit after the board meeting, saying he has heard such threats from angry parents before.
"We gave them an opportunity to be heard, then we made our decision," said Cleary. "We feel our decision is in the best interests of the entire county."