January 29, 2020

Victory for Hartford families fighting schools’ racial discrimination

Hartford, Connecticut; January 29, 2020: In direct response to a federal constitutional lawsuit, this month the State of Connecticut announced an end to the race-based quota at Hartford’s world-class magnet schools. The quota unfairly — and illegally — denied black and Hispanic children access to these schools and was the target of a lawsuit filed by LaShawn Robinson and seven other Hartford parents. Now that the state has met their demands, the parents are dismissing their lawsuit.

The settlement, agreed to by the State of Connecticut and the parties in Sheff v. O’Neill, capitulates to the major demands in the Robinson lawsuit:

  • Ending the racial quota: According to the settlement, “there will be no quotas of any kind based on race,” which negates a prior state mandate that all Connecticut interdistrict magnet schools reserve 25 percent of classroom seats for white or Asian students. Moving forward, the admissions lottery will be race neutral.
  • Opening empty seats: The former quota resulted in seats left empty if not enough white and Asian students enrolled. The settlement allows over 1,000 of those seats to be filled by deserving applicants, regardless of the impact on the magnet school’s racial composition. Penalties for schools not meeting the 75/25 ratio will be eliminated.

“We happily dismiss the Robinson case, with knowledge that our clients achieved everything they asked for: the end of blatant racial discrimination that has denied opportunities for students who needed it the most,” said PLF senior attorney Joshua Thompson. “Now, children and families throughout Connecticut no longer have to worry that their skin color will determine which schools they can attend.”

The state’s announcement comes in direct response to the federal constitutional challenges brought in Robinson v. Wentzell. The state, as well as the Sheff intervenors, had asked the court to dismiss the case in the past with no success. Only by changing school admissions to end the racial quota and by opening the empty seats were they able to avoid the constitutional challenges raised in the Robinson lawsuit.

A second lawsuit challenging the statewide racial quota remains active. We urge the Connecticut legislature to follow Hartford’s lead and end racial discrimination in magnet schools outside of Hartford.

PLF attorneys will continue to monitor the situation in Hartford to ensure the state does not reintroduce unconstitutional racial discrimination in another form.

Case Documents

Pacific Legal Foundaation case document
Dismissal
January 29, 2020 Download

About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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