Education Negotiation Role-Play:

Boston Busing Role PlayWorkable Peace: Civil Rights and Integration in the United States

Melissa Manwaring, under the direction of David Fairman and Stacie Nicole Smith
Six-party, multi-issue negotiation among governmental, organizational, and family stakeholders regarding the implementation of court-ordered racial integration measures in Boston public schools and possible improvements in education and community relations

Please note: you must order multiple copies in order to run this simulation. You should order a copy for every person participating in the simulation.

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The Boston Busing Role Play is a simulation from the Workable Peace Curriculum Series unit on Civil Rights and School Integration in the United States.


This role play is set in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1970s. The background instructions give a brief history of school segregation and desegregation in the U.S. and Boston through the early 1970s. Multiple efforts have been made to improve schools for blacks in Boston, including voluntary one-way busing (Operation Exodus), metropolitan busing (METCO), and state legislation (RIA). But the Boston School Committee has resisted all attempts to make substantive changes to integrate the schools, and has denied that the schools are deliberately segregated. In 1972, black parents and the NAACP turn to the federal courts for a remedy.

In late spring of 1974, Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity handed down his opinion in Morgan v. Hennigan, ruling that the members of the Boston School Committee “have knowingly carried out a systematic program of segregation…Therefore, the entire school system of Boston is unconstitutionally segregated.” In hopes of remedying the situation, Judge Garrity recommends implementing a plan written earlier by Charles Glenn, of the State Board of Education.

Although a series of hearings and negotiations did occur at this time on the Massachusetts Education Department plan written by Charles Glenn, as well as a number of attempts to build consensus among those affected by the decision, the key stakeholders never convened in a formal or informal facilitated setting. It is at this point that the Boston Busing Role Play becomes counter-factual. Our simulation asks participants to imagine “what if” all the stakeholder groups had been brought together for negotiations before Phase I of school integration had been attempted (and failed).

Therefore, as our simulation begins, Mayor White has called a meeting of the major stakeholders to review the Glenn Plan for integrating the schools, and to discuss alternative strategies. The meeting is to be chaired by his representative. Invited to the meeting are representatives of the Boston School Committee, the NAACP, the State Board of Education, and white and black parents.



The Boston Busing Role Play aims to:

  • Provide accurate historical and background information on school desegragation in the U.S., and in Boston in the 1970s.
  • Stimulate and motivate student learning through active participation, as well as reading, writing, class discussion, and other forms of analysis and expression.
  • Build students’ negotiation and conflict management skills by asking them to take on the roles of participants seeking to resolve a conflict through negotiation, with support and feedback as they prepare, conduct, and debrief the role play.
  • Challenge students to find the links between the conflict presented in the role play and the conflict resolution steps presented in the Workable Peace Framework, and to apply them to other conflicts in history and in their own lives.


Teacher’s Package Includes:

  • History and General Instructions
  • Confidential Instructions for the black parents’ representative, the white parents’ representative, and the representatives of the NAACP, the Boston City Schools, the Mayor’s office, and the State Board of Education
  • Framework for a Workable Peace
  • Teaching Note


If you would like additional information about the Workable Peace framework and teaching materials, including information about teacher training and support, please contact Workable Peace Co-Directors David Fairman or Stacie Smith at:

The Consensus Building Institute, Inc. 238 Main Street, Suite 400 Cambridge, MA 02142 Tel: 617-492-1414 Fax: 617-492-1919 web: Email:


Boston Busing Role Play Attributes

Time required:
3-5 hours
Number of participants:
Teams involved:
Agent present:
Neutral third party present:
Teaching notes available:

PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.