Connecticut Parents Union v. Wentzell

Race-based quotas in Connecticut schools hurt Black and Hispanic students

Cases > Equality Under the Law > Connecticut Parents Union v. Wentzell
Case Status: Active: Federal lawsuit challenges discriminatory magnet school admissions

Each year, world-class magnet schools in Connecticut deny admission to thousands of deserving children while leaving available seats empty—because of skin color. State law requires magnet schools’ enrollment to be at least 25 percent white or Asian. This means Black and Hispanic students are turned away if their admission would push minority enrollment above 75 percent, even if seats remain empty. The Connecticut Parents Union filed a federal lawsuit to eliminate these racial quotas and free up life-changing educational opportunities for students throughout the state.

In 2011, Gwen Samuel formed the Connecticut Parents Union (CTPU), to expand educational opportunities for families across the state. These opportunities include interdistrict magnet schools, which consistently outperform public neighborhood schools.

But each year, these schools deny admission to thousands of deserving children while leaving available seats empty—because of skin color.

State law mandates that all Connecticut interdistrict magnet schools limit Black and Hispanic enrollment to 75 percent of classroom seats and reserve 25 percent for white or Asian students.

When too few white and Asian students enroll, seats sit empty because admitting local black and Hispanic children on waiting lists would upset a school’s 25/75 ratio and lead to funding cuts or closure. New Haven’s Creed High School, for instance, closed in 2018 after enrolling too many Black and Hispanic students.

The race-based quotas originally applied to Hartford magnet schools in the wake of Sheff v. O’Neill, a 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court ruling to address racial segregation in Hartford schools. A law passed in 2017 expanded the magnet school quotas to the entire state.

The Constitution’s equal protection guarantee protects Americans against government-sponsored discrimination, prompting two federal lawsuits.

In February 2018, a group of parents led by LaShawn Robinson sued over magnet school quotas in Hartford. And in February 2019, the CTPU sued to restore civil rights and level the education playing field for Black and Hispanic students across the state.

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What’s at stake?

  • Connecticut denies Black and Hispanic children the same educational opportunities available to their White and Asian peers.
  • Eligible Black and Hispanic students deserve access to the state’s world-class magnet schools when seats would otherwise remain empty.

Case Timeline

Complaint for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief

February 25, 2019 Download

Complaint

February 20, 2019 Download

Case Attorneys

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