ACLU and Civil Rights Lawyers Renew Effort to Desegregate Hartford Schools

November 6, 2007 12:00 am

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HARTFORD – Before a Connecticut Superior Court today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Connecticut and cooperating attorneys will argue that the state of Connecticut must honor its legal obligations to desegregate Hartford’s public schools.

“It has now been 11 years since the Connecticut Supreme Court declared that school segregation in Hartford was unconstitutional – how much longer must these children wait for their most basic rights?” said Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program and an attorney in the case. “Each day that passes is another shameful reminder of the state’s failure to act, a failure burdened by Hartford’s children.”

In 1996, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Sheff v. O’Neill that Hartford’s racially segregated schools violated minority students’ constitutional rights to an equal education. Although the court urged the legislature and governor to put school integration “at the top of their respective agendas,” the progress of integration has been abysmal.

An agreement between the Sheff plaintiffs and Connecticut, reached in 2003, put forth a four-year plan by which the state would reduce the racial isolation faced by Hartford’s minority schoolchildren. But over a decade after the state Supreme Court’s ruling, Hartford-area schools remain divided by race and class. Though interdistrict magnet schools and other programs have provided some of the region’s children access to quality, integrated educational opportunities, fewer than one in 10 Hartford-resident students of color currently attend an integrated school.

A new agreement was recently reached by the plaintiffs and the state but the Connecticut legislature failed to approve the plan before the 2003 order expired. The ACLU and LDF are now seeking a court ordered remedy to the segregation problem in Hartford’s public schools.

Attorneys in the case are Matthew Colangelo of LDF, Parker and Larry Schwartztol of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, and cooperating attorneys Wesley Horton and Martha Stone.

More information on Sheff v. O’Neill is available at:

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