July 13, 2018

It’s time to give children in Hartford the education they deserve

By Wen Fa Attorney

World-class magnet schools in Hartford, Connecticut provide thousands of students with a quality education. The schools also provide hope for scores of minority students in Hartford, who currently attend failing neighborhood schools. Unfortunately, a pernicious Connecticut law, which reserves 25% of magnet school seats for whites and Asians, prevents Black and Hispanic students from enrolling in schools with empty seats. That is not right. Schools shouldn’t turn away students just because of their race.

In February, eight brave Black and Hispanic families filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to put an end to Connecticut’s discrimination. On the other side, Connecticut and other groups filed briefs in support of the state’s discriminatory status quo. They argue that an amorphous interest in racial diversity justifies keeping Black and Hispanic students out of world-class magnet schools. PLF disagrees. Today, we filed our response to vindicate the families’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it, children should “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The families’ right to be free from racial discrimination trumps whatever other interests the state might have.

Students in Hartford, no matter what their race, should be able to attend magnet schools with empty seats. Discrimination should not stop children from leaving failing neighborhood schools. It should not prevent children from getting a quality education. It has no place in our Constitution. We’re optimistic that the court will allow children in Hartford to get the education they deserve.

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Robinson v. Wentzell

Hartford, Connecticut, runs a number of world-class magnet schools. Their success has led to the use of a lottery to decide who can attend. But under a state-mandated racial quota, enrollment must be at least 25% white or Asian. This means Black and Hispanic students are turned away if their admission would push minority enrollment above 75%—even if seats remain empty. Representing seven Hartford families, PLF sued to restore the constitutional rights of Black and Hispanic students to have the same educational opportunities as all children in Connecticut.

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