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Former VICC Students Share Experiences With Busing As Program Winds Down

(Aug. 14, 2019) Veronica Johnson (at left) and Maalik Shakoor joined Wednesday's talk show to discuss St. Louis' school desegregation and busing program. Hope Rias joined the conversation by phone.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris clashed in the Democratic presidential debates over the issue of busing, viewers may have thought of these programs as being in the past. That’s not the case in St. Louis — the city has the longest-running and largest desegregation program in the nation. 

Now in its 38th year, the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation has bused more than 70,000 inner-city black students to predominantly white schools in the suburbs – and has also allowed white students living in the county to attend magnet schools in the city. It entails long bus rides as well as necessary but not always comfortable adjustment to new social circles.

The court oversight of the program lifted in 1999, and after multiple extensions, the program is due to stop accepting new applicants in the 2023-2024 school year.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske explored what the experience has been like for students who participated in the VICC program – and if it’s really time to wind it down. 

Joining the discussion were former VICC students Maalik Shakoor and Hope Rias. Shakoor is from north St. Louis and is a 2014 graduate of the Clayton School District. He’s since graduated from Webster University with a degree in film production. 

Rias is from south St. Louis and is a 1992 graduate of the Pattonville School District. She is now an assistant professor of education at Bridgewater College in Virginia and authored a book called "St. Louis School Desegregation: Patterns of Progress and Peril." 

Also participating in the conversation was Veronica Johnson, a civil rights attorney in St. Louis who represented the NAACP and helped bring about the busing program by suing the St. Louis schools. 

Listen to the full discussion:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.