Robert Kelley was 14 in 1955 when he was forced to bypass a neighborhood school for whites only to attend a crosstown high school for blacks.
His father, A.Z. Kelley, sued the city on behalf of Kelley and 19 other black children challenging Nashville's segregated school system.Forty-three years later, Kelley said his late father would be pleased by a federal judge's approval Monday of a $206 million school desegregation plan that ends 27 years of crosstown busing.
"This is a second chance for Nashville," said Kelley, whose three children graduated from the city's public schools and whose granddaughter attends second grade at Dellwood Elementary.
Under the lawsuit, Nashville in 1971 became one of the first cities in the country to have court-ordered busing to equalize the racial makeup of its public schools. The order prompted many white families to send their children to private schools or move out of Nashville.
Nashville's 128 public schools now have 71,000 students, some of whom take 45-minute bus rides to get to their schools.
Under the new plan approved by U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman, the city intends to build 15 new schools and renovate or enlarge dozens of others so students can attend classes closer to home.