Thomas F. Pettigrew, associate professor of Social Relations, said yesterday that the Federal Court ruling against de facto segregation in Springfield schools would be a "powerful precedent" for a similar lawsuit in Boston.
The NAACP is presently considering filing suit against the Boston School Committee for de facto segregation in city schools.
U.S. District Court Judge George Sweeney ruled last week that the racial imbalance in Springfield schools constitutes de facto segregation and must be corrected by April 30, 1965. He held the School Committee responsible for ending racial imbalance in eight public schools. Whenever the non-white enrollment exceeds 50 per cent, Sweeney said, the school is essentially segregated; and racial imbalance as such is harmful.
The Springfield ruling was influenced by Pettigrew, who had testified in the case last fall. "Admittedly, much of the damage done to the Negro is a function of our whole society," he said. "But the schools are at least in part responsible, and must try to counteract society's harmful effects."
Studies in social psychology have shown. Pettigrew said, that work performance is at its maximum when the learning situation is as nearly similar to the performing situation as possible. With the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Employment Act, both Negroes and whites will have to perform well in an interracial situation.
This means, Pettigrew said, that it is in the best interests of both racial groups to educate students in a balanced school system--one in which 20-45 per cent of the student body consists of Negroes.
Although the Springfield decision may be appealed to a higher court, "odds are that it will stand," Pettigrew said. "So far, the Supreme Court has refused to hear any cases concerning do facto segregation--no matter which way they have gone. I think they are waiting for the case to settle itself in the lower courts."
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