From the second until the seventh grade, my brother and I walked to school. We were never bothered. No adults ever approached us. We sometimes walked with our friends, sometimes it was just us. We were in the same class until about the fourth grade. My brother's teacher lived around the corner from our house and it wasn't unusual for the teacher, Mr. Lewis, to give my brother or another of his classmates the keys to his house to pick up his lunch, or something else he may have forgotten. On that same block that Mr. Lewis lived, were two other teachers. Their children were our classmates, our friends and teammates on our school's basketball and football teams when we got to the seventh grade. We were in and out of their houses. Although my family still attended my grandfather's church in East Dallas, we were frequent visitors to the churches in our neighborhood for some Sunday services, for Vacation Bible Schools and revivals. There, some of those teachers in our school were Sunday School teachers, choir members, deacons and ushers.
Much of that ended by the time we were promoted to the eighth grade...
We went to Hamilton Park Junior High and we were among those first grades that were bused as Richardson ISD came under court order to end segregation.
Busing did more than get us to 'better' schools. It broke up community and camaraderie. Hamilton Park School contained first through 12 grades. We looked forward to graduating from that school as did the big brothers and sisters of our classmates. But when Hamilton Park School was desegregated, it tore a social framework that had been developed by many of us from the time we were in the first grade on.
If your family lived south of the school, you were bused to Lake Highlands Junior High. If you lived behind the school, you went to either Richardson Jr. High School (where my brother and I went) or in a few cases, you went to Pearce Jr. High School. When we went to high school, we were split even more, either going to Berkner, Richardson, Pearce or Lake Highland high schools.
I remember that first day, pretty clearly. A mistake was made and we were sent to the wrong junior high. The only thing worse than the tears shed on the bus on the way to our new school, were the tears that flowed when several weeks later they corrected the mistake by sending us to our actual assigned school!
There was a consequence to breaking up our school like that. The major consequence was that many of us lost touch with one another. Unless your family had lived in Hamilton Park a long time, or unless you went to the same church, kids who went to Lake Highlands lost touch with those who went to Richardson Jr. High or Pearce. From there those who went to Richardson, lost touch with those who went to Berkner or Pearce high schools.
I think its safe to say that we got a good education. A very good one. But were getting a very good education at Hamilton Park. With a few exception, we had caring teachers. But we had caring teachers at Hamilton Park.They were men and women who knew our parents...those teachers were our neighbors and church members and took special interest in our academic success. At our reunions now, we reconnect and, as with all other class reunions, those of us who haven't seen one another, will often stare hard to try and find the boys or girls we knew in our youth. I don't know that any of us regret anything other than the opportunity to grow up really knowing one another during those formative years. As I said, we got a very good public education.
There is one thing that I think is even worse than the break-up of Hamilton Park School...
Richardson ISD began implementing a strategy to desegregate Hamilton Park in 1970. It achieved 'unitary status this week.
The Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, which declared 'separate but equal' schools unconstitutional, was handed down in 1954 (about the same time Hamilton Park was built as a solution to substandard housing for blacks in Dallas - another story). The ruling called for integration 'with all deliberate speed'.
It took Richardson ISD, 14 years to obey the ruling. It took 59 years for a federal judge to decide that it was in full compliance with Brown v. Board.
Richardson ISD, is now a 'majority-minority' school district. It has been for a long time.
The next time someone tells you that race relations have 'come a long way' maybe this needs to be pointed out.