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D.C. School Superintendent Carl Hansen: 1961 | by Washington Area Spark
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D.C. School Superintendent Carl Hansen: 1961

D.C. School Superintendent Carl Hansen is shown February 10, 1961 at the time he was pushing for corporal punishment in District of Columbia schools.

 

Hansen initiated two other policies that were backed by the board of education that defined his tenure as school superintendent--an optional-transfer zones system and a track system that activist Reginald Booker had identified in 1961.

 

Both had the effect of nullifying the 1954 Bolling v. Sharpe U.S. Supreme Court decision ending legal segregation of District of Columbia schools.

 

The first gave residents "the option of transferring from nearby schools that were overcrowded and predominantly Negro to more distant schools that were integrated or predominantly white." This was used to permit white students to avoid predominantly black schools.

 

The second placed students "in tracks or curriculum levels according to the school's assessment of each student's ability to learn,” according to the Hobson v. Hansen lawsuit.

 

Ability to learn was based on IQ tests and the recommendations of school personnel and which turned out later to be highly biased against lower socio-economic groups and against black students in particular.

 

The effect was to largely segregate within a school based on race and to provide an inferior education to black children.

 

If a student was placed in the “general” or “basic” track, they had no access to college preparatory courses.

 

When Hobson’s daughter was placed in a “basic” track, he filed a class action suit against Hansen.

 

While the suit was pending, the D.C. School Board re-appointed Hansen to another three-year term.

 

Hobson called for a school boycott on May 1, 1967. Hansen in turned threatened students with lower grades or withholding college recommendation letters if they participated.

 

Only about 1,200 students more than usual stayed out of school, and Hansen declared victory.

 

It would be short-lived.

 

On June 19, 1967 Judge J. Skelly Wright ruled in Hobson’s favor finding that “the Superintendent of Schools and the members of the Board of Education, in the operation of the public school system here, unconstitutionally deprive the District’s Negro and poor public school children of their right to equal educational opportunity with the District’s white and more affluent public school children.”

 

The school board declined to appeal. Hansen quit as superintendent and attempted to appeal the decision, but the courts denied the appeal.

 

For more information and related images, see www.flickr.com/gp/washington_area_spark/12pMA5

 

The photographer is unknown. The image is an Associated Press photograph obtained via an Internet sale.

 

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Taken on February 10, 1961