Albion Interactive History / Events / 1960

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Events / Public Schools

1960’s, Discipline problems and racial unrest in schools

A recurring problem, particularly in the high school, was the enforcement of the discipline code, and racial unrest. As a student during the late 1960’s, this author [Frank Passic] vividly remembersnumerous times when the high school was closed, and police or other enforcement authorities patrolled the sidewalks and buildings.

Bomb scares became increasingly frequent, and students were sent home as the school and lockers were searched. Those who had a private lock for their lockers at Washington Gardner, other than the school’s officially-sanctioned “Master” brand (with the key hole in the back) had their locks cut during bomb searches. The telephones at the school were “bugged” in an attempt to apprehend anyone who phoned in a bomb threat.

Even after the senior high students moved into their newschool, bomb threats continued at the Washington Garner Junior High School. Junior high students enjoyed having an afternoon off, and a bomb scare seemed just the thing to produce it. Wise administrators however, turned the tables on whomever did the calling. Instead of sending the student home, they sent them to the First United Methodist Church up the street until the schoolwas searched and deemed safe. By that time it was well past time for school to get out. Students were finally dismissed from school much later than the regular time. There were no more bomb scares at Washington Gardner Junior High Schoolafter that.

Numerous incidents, confrontations, and “walk-outs” were sparked by such things as: cheerleading selection, homecoming queen selection, discipline code enforcement or the unequal enforcement of it, talent show censorship, valedictorian/salutarian commencement speech censorship, leaflet distribution, placement of the black national flag, basketball and football team selection, and numerous individual controversies. Often these problems were racial, centering around whether or not a “black” or “white” player, cheerleader, or queen, etc., was selected/notselected and the fairness/unfairness of the selection process.

The practice of electing a homecoming queen was thus discontinued in favor of selecting just a homecoming court. The valedictorian and salutatorian commencement speeches for 1972 were cancelled after school administrators tried to censor the and the students refused to let them do so. The speeches werethereby fully published in the Albion Evening Recorder for all to read.

The difficulties during the 1960s and 1970s boiled over into fights, protest, walk-outs, and more unrest. There were numerous suspensions, and some trespassing arrests were made as suspended students tried to attend classes anyways. The Albion Public Schools received negative publicity in the news media, and gained an unfavorablereputation across the state. The result was a polarization of the community spirit, andlow morale.

Parents and community leaders realized that they had to work together to solve their problems, if hey were to see order and stability restored. The end result was the adoption of a program of total racial integration of the schools, and the adoption of a revised student discipline code which spelled out specific behavior rules and consequences in order that students would be dealt with fairly.

Source: Frank Passic. A History of the Albion Public Schools. Albion, Michigan: E. Weil Publishing Services. 1991.