Prince George's Owens Road Elementary School, near the southeast border of Washington, D.C., illustrates the futility of the attempt to maintain a court-ordered racial balance in individual county schools, the official in charge of school boundaries testified today.
Jon Peterson, head of pupil accounting for the nation's 13th largest school district, told U.S. District Court Judge Frank J. Kaufman that following his 1972 order to desegregate the county's schools, pupils from single-family homes in three predominantly white subdivisions, including one under construction, were selected for busing to Owens Road, beginning in January 1973.
"We had projected and predicted that Riverbend Estates the new development would be a predominantly white community because those around it were," Peterson said. But by September 1973, school officials were surprised to find that the new Riverbend subdivision was half black and Owens Road was 59 percent black. The next year, 120 black pupils were transferred to a new school in the Fort Washington area but the black percentage at Owens Road still rose to 64 percent.
"There were other Owens Roads beginning to surface," Peterson remembered. "Where do we go from there? We were looking at a population that was ever changing."
Peterson said that to relieve black concentrations in some of the county's 173 schools would require "continual changes," because unlike 1972, when Kaufman issued his sweeping order to desegregate, areas within reasonable busing distances from the schools are already racially mixed.
"In 1973 we did have some all-white communities. That is just not the case in 1981," Peterson said.
But the county branch of the NAACP, which is suing the county, charges that there are as many predominantly black schools today as there were before Kaufman's 1972 order.
John Rosser, an NAACP spokesman and plaintiff, said, "I guess there are more integrated neighborhoods, but there are still pockets and communities that are predominantly black and predominantly white." Rosser, who lives in the Seat Pleasant area, said, "my community has not changed in over 20 years."