Settlement Approved in Hartford Desegregation Case

HARTFORD Conn.

A judge on Wednesday approved a plan to add magnet schools and school-choice options in the Hartford area to settle a long-standing lawsuit over racial isolation in the city’s schools, lawyers for both sides said.

The deal reached in April requires the state to develop a detailed plan to address racial disparity. It calls for more magnet schools in Hartford suburbs and an increase in the number of spots available in suburban schools for Hartford students.

The agreement also requires that at least 80 percent of Hartford students who want to attend integrated schools be accommodated by 2012.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger Jr. was the last step needed to implement the agreement.

“This significant step marks another key juncture in ending racial isolation and raising educational achievement in the Hartford Schools,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.

The legislature’s Education Committee overwhelmingly approved the settlement during this year’s regular legislative session.

The plaintiffs, 10 families representing 19 children, first brought the case in 1989. The argued that the racial makeup of the city’s schools violated the state constitution’s guarantee of an equal education. The state Supreme Court ruled in their favor in 1996, but left it up to them to reach a compromise with the state on a remedy.

A 4-year-old settlement in the case failed to reach its goals and expired in 2007. A report by Trinity College last year found that only 9 percent of Hartford’s students who are primarily black and Hispanic attend schools that have enough white students to qualify as racially integrated under terms of that settlement.

Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, who represented the plaintiffs, said he was hopeful the new agreement would lead to improvements.

“For the first time in the 12 years since the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Hartford’s schools to be unconstitutionally racially segregated, the state must adhere to a definitive framework for ensuring that it meets its constitutional obligations,” he said.

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