Lawsuit seeks to make state desegregate public schools

Published 9:03 am Friday, November 6, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Seven families and a community organization are suing the state of Minnesota, saying it has failed to adequately educate poor and minority students in the Twin Cities.

The lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court says the state has enacted policies that have created schools with a disproportionate number of poor and minority children, and it says those schools are academically underperforming when compared with more integrated schools.

The Star Tribune reported the plaintiffs want a judge to force the state todesegregate public schools across Minneapolis and St. Paul under a plan that would include redrawing district boundaries.

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The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel Shulman and his son, John, who represented the NAACP 20 years ago when it sued the state on similar grounds. The case led to a state program that allows low-income students from Minneapolis to enroll in suburban districts.

“Just as Minnesota has become a leader in shamefully developing the largest so-called achievement gap between African-American and European-American students, we intend to make Minnesota a leader in eliminating that gap by desegregating Twin Cities schools and providing all children with a high quality, non-racist, desegregatededucation,” John Shulman said.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said Thursday that she hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit so couldn’t comment on specifics.

“However, the Minnesota Department of Education is committed to helping every student achieve academic success,” she said in a statement.

A recent Star Tribune analysis showed that more than half of the elementary schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul districts now have 80 percent or more minority students. In Minneapolis, a district that was fully integrated in the 1980s, two schools have student populations that are almost entirely white, while 19 schools have student populations that are more than 80 percent minority.

The lawsuit argues that the districts drew school attendance boundaries that placed a large number of minority and poor children in certain schools, while other schools serve mostly white and wealthy children. The complaint said the two districts’ use of a “community school” model has resulted in greater segregation.