A True Story: Feeling Good Picking On the POOFs

IMG_2462I write because I read in the Boston Herald yesterday a column by Margery Eagan. Her column started off: “Welcome to Brookline, my adopted hometown. It’s a sanctuary city for 
illegal immigrants. It’s where Town Meeting OK’d non-citizens voting in local elections, put the kibosh on spanking and banned plastic bags and Styrofoam. We’re right-thinking and compassionate in Brookline . . . ” 


She continued by telling us that the town is going to kick out of school children who live on the Boston/Brookline border. From what I can tell those people are not wealthy, seem to be working class people trying to better the educational opportunity for their kids, and have put all the assets they have into their houses to have their kids attend the Brookline schools. It also seems they pay Brookline taxes. But in the scheme of things in Brookline, they are POOFs (people our of favor).

It’s an old story as you’ll see. It’s one that stares us in the face but we don’t want to talk about it. Plain and simple: the schools in Boston aren’t too good and any person with young children who can will flee from them.

In this border home case, there will be 30 kids affected by this cruel decision. That’s it, 30 kids. Brookline has about 6,200 kids in the school. The best I can figure is the student body is about 57.4% White, 18.1% Asian, 6.4% Black, 9.9% Hispanic, and 8.2% Multi-race. It seems a well integrated system.

I should note it’s not that Brookline doesn’t open it arms to outsiders. It has a Metco program which is designed to help black kids in the City of Boston attend suburban schools that offer better educational opportunities.  Brookline suggests that helps It takes over 300 students from Boston into its “voluntary integration program.” It just doesn’t want border kids.

Metco makes manifest the failure of the Boston Schools to provide a decent education for it students. It has 3,600 students who are willing to travel on buses, some long distances, to escape the Boston Schools. The last I heard there is a waiting list.

Some of you may know I was one of the attorneys for the Boston School Committee during the days (1972 – 1975) when Judge Wendell Arthur Garrity, Jr. took over dictatorial control of the Boston Schools. He became the darling of many from Brookline and other “right thinking” people outside Boston who supported his Sherman-like march through the Boston school system.

Some suggest that was the beginning of the great animus that developed between Billy Bulger and the Boston media. Billy attempted to stand in front of the federal steam roller proclaiming: “Why are you sending the children of South Boston outside their neighborhood to school that are so bad you want to take the children attending them out and put them somewhere else?”

To defend one’s neighborhood schools was considered racist. It followed then that Billy was considered a racist especially by those unaffected by Garrity’s decrees. Most of those who chastised him were not affected by busing.

Metco which suggests it origin goes back to 1966 was ongoing at Garrity’s time. But the Metco program was a one-way creation. No kids were going to be sent into Boston, the black kids would be the ones forced to travel to get an education. It boiled down that the kids being put on buses to go to the admittedly decrepit schools that were shunned by others were mostly from South Boston.

The unfairness never occurred to most ensconced safely outside Boston. It was simple to yell racist than to think of the overall effect of what was happening. Having to sit in court every time there was a hearing on the case, I listened in amazement as Judge Garrity became so involved in minutiae that he was deciding what brand of basketball was to be purchased for the gym at the state-trooper lined hallways of Southie High.

I could go on but word limit dictates I turn to my story.

I had left my State Street office during those busing days and was heading over to Post Office Square to the federal courthouse. I happened to run into a law school friend who lived in Brookline. He knew of my involvement in the case and went on and on about how racist the people from South Boston were. When he finished his rant I said to him: “You know what Garrity is going to consider today? It’s whether to bring Brookline into his order for busing. After all, it is right in the middle of Boston so he thinks it too should be part of the case.” He turned white and then red with rage telling me how unfair that would be.

Brookline was willing to have some black kids from Boston shipped to it under Metco, but it was ready to fight tooth and nail to keep its kids in its neighborhood schools. In truth, since cities and towns are the creation of the state, had Garrity had the courage he could have brought Brookline or other towns into the case. But any threat to those outside of Boston would have had a great blowback on Garrity’s popularity. So it was only left to the kids of Boston to undo years of segregation. As you know, Garrity’s program turned into a great disaster for the Boston Schools.

There will always be some on both the left and right of our political spectrum who want others to sacrifice as long as it does not affect them. So shall it always be. I’m quite sure that none of those voting to kick the border kids out of the Brookline schools live in the border homes.

8 thoughts on “A True Story: Feeling Good Picking On the POOFs

  1. Dear Matt,

    Last week, I attempted to contact you via the contact form on your website. Did you receive that message?

    Thank you very much in advance.


    1. Jay:

      As you know I wasn’t involved in setting up the site so when I read you emails about contacting me off site I went to my blog and see that I had contact information that suggested people write to bulgerontrial@gmail.com. I didn’t know (or I forgot) that there was such a thing on the blog. I went to that email site and found quite a few emails to me that I have not answered which makes me feel somewhat remiss. I’ve changed the contact information. I do however think I received your request on another email and I will answer it in a bit. I’ve been involved in a couple of things that have taken me away from the site for a few days but I hope to get back to it.

  2. Matt et al.,
    I’ve worked with kids in the METCO program for years.
    The fact that these kids travel to towns for their education
    is on par with kids who travel into town to various fine
    schools they choose to attend and pay for. Our taxes
    cover the costs for kids in METCO, and many kids adjust
    to the ride.
    By the way, kids don’t have to be black to be in METCO.
    All kinds of families choose this option.

    1. Firefly:

      The last I heard Metco is limited to blacks, Asians and Latins; whites need not apply. Yes, Metco is a good program but it was instituted by parents who knew their kids were getting a lousy education in Boston and the towns in the subburbs knew that also. So the Metco kids had to travel on buses to get good educations while the suburban kids could stay home and go to their local schools. The problem is the state is supposed to provide equal education to all but it passes the buck down to the cities and towns and there the education is distinctly different going from dismally non-existent to great. I always found some black humor in the idea that in a suit for equal educational opportunity South Boston High, which did a poor job of educating kids, was chosen as the target by Garrity. The black kids that went there were probably getting a better education where they were. If Garrity were truly interested in giving the black kids a better education than they were getting, why not send them to the better schools.
      You see the overall play here is that the influence of affluence dictates the outcome; the poorer kids get bussed; the poorer kids who can’t get on the bus suffer.

  3. Garrity was a lousy guy even before he became a judge. There was a contest for supremacy in the democrat party back in the fifties. It pitted JFK of Eastern Mass. against Furcolo of the West. Both were talented young congressmen. JFK ended up in the Senate and Furcolo became Governor. JFK as President had Garrity placed in the US Attorney’s office. He maliciously indicted two lawyers who had ties to the Furcolo administration on a land taking deal. It was a political prosecution as blatant as the one against John Connolly. As in Connolly’s case Att H. and ATT G. were found not guilty by the Boston Federal jury. They didn’t receive a grossly unfair sentence in Boston or a retrial on the same facts in another state. Vindictive, vengeful use of the prosecutors office is nothing new. Garrity was just as abusive as Wyshak.

    1. N:

      I had to appear in front of him so I know the man had his problems. There’s a real problem with the federal system is that the judges all want to back one another so one going as far off base as Garrity did with the busing case, surrounding himself with a lot of people who sought to punish rather than remedy, is there is no remedy to his overreach. We see that now in the Apple case where for two weeks work a guy appointed by the federal court has charged 138,000 at his 1100 hourly rate plus 15% administrative fee and his buddy charging 1,025 and hour. When Apple objects, the DOJ comes in to support the appointment.

      When I was at a pre-argument conference in the court of appeals on Garrity’s busing order, I was explaining how the busing was a wrongful remedy and one of the Appeals court judges said something to the effect, “that’s water over the dam, we’re not going to change that.” There was not way anyone was going to reverse the absurd decision. It didn’t matter that after Garrity got involved the schools were more segregated than ever; all that counted was that South Boston High was operating with State Troopers manning the hall ways – absurd.

    1. Henry:

      Thanks for the reference to the article. Your are right that it spells out a lot of what happened. I enjoyed reading some of the comments by Kerrigan since it brought back memories of his sly grin as he had the Boston Globe spinning around in circles doing its best to undermine him. It also showed how resistent the suburbs were to sending their white kids into Boston; the tragedy of it all is if Garrity wasn’t so determined to prove the people of Southie and in small part Charlestown were racists he may have been able to come up with a plan that worked.

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