More than 150 parents and students, most from the Laurel area, crowded into the Prince George's Board of Education chamber last night to protest the findings of a court-appointed panel's school desegregation report.
None of the 12 speakers who addressed the board during a sometimes raucous public session spoke in favor of the report, which was released last week.
The report concluded that total desegregation should be achieved in Prince George's by closing 32 schools and increasing the amount of time some students spend riding on buses.
The panel, headed by Robert L. Green, president of the University of the District of Columbia, found that school segregation in the county has been increasing steadily since 1973 and that if present trends continue elementary schools will be as segregated in 20 years as they were when busing was ordered in 1973.
At last night's session, Darrell J. Grimes, a Laurel resident, said, "We are now faced with a proposal that will destroy the entire concept and benefits of a neighborhood public school."
Grimes said he moved there two years ago largely to be near Laurel Elementary School.
"Quite frankly I can think of no single positive benefit associated with busing," said Grimes, a University of Maryland professor who is the father of two children.
Grimes' complaint was echoed by other parents from the Laurel area, many of whom objected to a concept favored in the Green report under which schools in racially diverse neighborhoods would be paired to further integration.
"All our schools are equally inadequate, and a test score cannot be the measure" of adequacy, said Valerie Kaplan, of the Laurel Advisory Committee. "Integration no longer means better education."
Willie Lowel, the mother of two children who attend Dodge Park Elementary School near Landover, was the only black parent to speak last night.
She complained that pairing Dodge Park with a Laurel school would cause her two children to spend 52 minutes on a bus getting to school each day.
Superintendent John Murphy said he expected last night's protests and has already expressed "grave concerns" about the panel's findings.
The school board has until April 22 to respond to the report to a federal court in Baltimore.
Kaplan, whose speech last night was one of the harshest, drew prolonged applause when she called the Green report "about what you would expect when you crossbreed five PhDs and a computer."
She also criticized the report for what she called "its approach to our children as inanimate, numerical objects to be transported all over this vast county."
School board chairman Angelo Castelli told the crowd that board members will decide what action to take in response to the Green report in a closed executive session.
Castelli made one attempt at compromise at the close of last night's session.
"When the ultimate decision is made, we must realize we're going to have to abide by that decision," he said. His words were immediately drowned out by shouts and loud protests from the crowd.