Compliance with Federal Integration Standards

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In his narrative document, Mr. Vorwald says the following about the struggle to meet federal standards in the 1960’s by busing students from Gary’s Midtown area to Lew Wallace:

In the spring of 1966, the superintendent announced in an administration meeting that some pupil reassignments were to be made effective in September 1966. These involved 60 eighth grade students at Bailly Junior High School who would have gone to ninth grade at Roosevelt, now were now being assigned to Lew Wallace. These students were black students relocated to integrate an all-white school.

The meeting was adjourned for lunch, and before I got back to school, someone on the superintendent's staff called the secretaries at Lew Wallace telling them of the student assignments. Needless to say, rumors spread about all sorts of student and staff assignments that might occur. This was my first lesson in rumor proliferation. Having no public address system and in an attempt to correct misinformation I sent a bulletin to each staff with the superintendent's plans. The bulletin seemed to quell the staff’s unfounded rumors, and after a few days calm returned. However after the superintendent's plan was published in the local newspaper, rumors ran rampant in the community, and we were flooded with phone calls and visitors for days.

In the summer of 1966, in preparation for the influx of reassigned students, I contacted many people for suggestions about the racial integration of Lew Wallace. I asked the superintendent, his assistant, my former principal at Roosevelt, and other black and white community members. Without exception, their response was to "treat the new black students as you would any other new students. Don't make a big event of this." This was then my approach, and I conveyed this to my staff in meetings prior to the opening of school. Most agreed but a few wanted to make a special effort. One of these was the Student Council sponsor, Mr. George Orlich. He wanted council members to greet the black students when they arrived by bus, escort them into the building, and guide them to their first class. I did agree to this.

On the first day of school, the new black students approached the school in their bus. There were two main entrances to the school on 45th Avenue. One is to the west near Jackson Street, and the other, where most students entered, to the east near Madison Street. These two entrances are about one block apart or about 300 feet apart. The normal bus stop was to let students off near the entrance closer to Madison Street. The bus driver approached the school from the west. As he neared the Jackson Street entrance, he stopped there because he saw a crowd of students (the council members) gathered at the Madison Street entrance. He told the black students that he was letting them off at this entrance to avoid the crowd at the next entrance.

The black students became apprehensive, and after getting off the bus, they ran into the building. The council members saw the black students and ran over to greet them, but only caught up with the last few getting off the bus. The council members did escort these few into the building. The council sponsor told me what had happened. He then said that he would get on the bus after school and explained to the students what the council members had wanted to do. He did talk to the black students, but that evening I got a call from the superintendent who had gotten two phone calls from parents of the new students stating that when their children arrived at school, a gang was waiting for them. I had the council sponsor call those two parents that night. Mr. Orlich also met the bus the next morning, to explain again what the council had tried to do. However, by word of mouth and rumor, the wrong story got out into the community.”

Let me add personally that there was a lot of backlash with some Glen Park parents who went so far as to destroy personal property of school officials. Even some faculty members were dead-set against the integration of Lew Wallace and were verbally abusive to the students. I never knew of the faculty misconduct until I was told by another teacher who witnessed at least one such incident.

There were even discussions among the prom sponsors that mixed-race couples should not be eligible to buy tickets. Internally, it came to a showdown where those demanding such conditions were told they must publish their policy if they wanted to enforce it, but administration mediated and nothing more was said.

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