Over 20,000 children -- about 22 per cent of Boston's public school population -- skipped classes yesterday in a Freedom Stay Out described by its leaders as a "resounding sucess."
William H. Ohrenberger, superintendent of Boston schools, put the exact absentee figure at 20,571, approximately two and one-half times the usual number.
Over 10,000 children flocked to the 34 Freedom Schools set up for the day by civil rights leaders. Several thousand had to be bused to hastily established "overflow schools," as the 27 original schools were jammed to capacity and spilled over onto the streets.
Noel Day, co-director of the Freedom Stay-Out Committee, declared the day a triumph, "both in numbers and in quality of the program. We are highly pleased that this many people have seen they must take steps to secure their freedom." He characterized the students as "soldiers in a great non-violent army in Boston."
However, members of the Boston School Committee, against whom the stay-out was directed, disagreed vigorously.
The boycott, organized by the Massachusetts Freedom Movement, was aimed at dramatizing Negro grievances over the schools, especially the alleged existence of de facto segregation.
Mrs. Louise Day Hicks, who has repeatedly denied that the Boston schools are segregated said that the boycott had emotionally scarred the participating children, demoralized Boston teachers, and wasted taxpayers' money. She announced that she would ask the School Committee to fine the stay-out leaders $50 for each absentee.
Last Year's Boycott Surpassed
Yesterday's boycott surpassed last June's demonstration both in scope and numbers. The June stay-out included only junior and senior high school students, while yesterday's welcomed elementary school children as well. Last year only 8260 children stayed out, and only about 3000 attended Freedom Schools. And yesterday about 1200 white suburban children were bused into Boston to integrate the predominantly Negro Freedom Schools.
At 4 p.m. over 1200 students gathered on the Boston Common before marching to the City Hall, where they jammed the steps and entrance to the building, singing, clapping, and shouting.