Compulsory Attendance Law

In the run up to desegregation in Virginia, with massive resistance crumbling before federal and state court decisions, the General Assembly desperately tried to counteract the courts. The General Assembly rushed through Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr.'s school program to ensure that no child be required to attend an integrated school. This moderate set of measures seemed to accept token or minimal integration in Virginia schools and the failure of statewide massive resistance. Some legislators wanted to continue to fight for massive resistance and worked to defeat the governor's hastily formulated plans. The program passed on January 31, 1959 and featured several key measures. First, the General Assembly repealed the compulsory school attendance law, so that no child in Virginia was required to attend school. Second, the state provided tuition grants of $250 per pupil to parents whose children would prefer to attend private schools rather than integrated public schools. And finally the legislature passed a tough criminal statute against bombing churches, synagogues, schools, or other public buildings. Almond vowed that he wanted no violence in Virginia, saying "I want nobody hurt, threatened, or insulted." (Washington Post, February 1, 1959)