We have received multiple requests from media about Senator Kamala Harris and her experience with the Berkeley Public Schools. Senator Harris is correct in describing her experience as the second class to be part of the busing integration program. All Berkeley elementary schools were integrated through an innovative two-way busing plan, which was implemented voluntarily by our district beginning in 1968. Kamala Harris joined first grade in 1970, which means she joined a cohort that had entered kindergarten in the second year of the busing program, in 1969.
There has been some confusion in the media and social media around the Berkeley schools and integration due to the fact that our high school was already “integrated”, as evidenced, for example, by high school yearbooks which show children of many race/ethnicities at school together prior to 1968. In Berkeley, we only have one comprehensive high school, so it was integrated by default (de facto). Our elementary schools, however, reflected the racial composition of our neighborhoods, which like many neighborhoods across America reflected the history of segregation stemming from policies which restricted the opportunities of non-white residents.
We recently celebrated the 50 year anniversary of our voluntary busing plan, and you can find additional details here, including a chart showing the racial composition of our elementary schools in 1963 compared to 1969.