HARTFORD – The Center for Children’s Advocacy, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., (LDF) and attorney Wesley Horton today signed another one year agreement with the Connecticut State Department of Education and the City of Hartford in Sheff v. O’Neill, Connecticut’s groundbreaking educational equity case. The agreement follows Stipulations and Orders signed in 2003, 2008 and 2013 by the parties which were designed to reduce the racial and ethnic isolation of Hartford’s public school students.
The efforts to diversify Hartford’s public schools originated with the Sheff v. O’Neill lawsuit in 1989. The Sheff litigation sought to vindicate the right of Hartford children to an education equal to that of their suburban counterparts. Seven years later, the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the State of Connecticut to provide all children with a substantially equal educational opportunity. In the wake of the Sheff ruling, a series of multi-year court-ordered agreements between the parties have required the State to create over 39 quality integrated magnet schools and fund Open Choice, a program which allows Hartford students to attend schools in suburban districts.
The new Stipulation and Order ensures the State will expand its efforts to comply with the Connecticut Supreme Court’s mandate in Sheff. “Sheff has opened up countless integrated and quality educational opportunities for children in the greater Hartford region. This latest Stipulation guarantees that the forward progress made on behalf of children will continue,” said Vincent Southerland of LDF, a Sheff plaintiffs’ attorney.
While the new Stipulation expands existing integrated educational opportunities by making available over 1350 new seats for Hartford schoolchildren, and by seeking to add another 500 new seats to the Open Choice program, “there is still much to be done,” said Martha Stone, Executive Director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case.. “We can applaud the advancements of this new agreement, but we must not forget that there still remains a majority of Hartford students relegated to poor performing segregated schools. We must not let another generation of students get passed over for the opportunity to benefit from this constitutional obligation by the State,“ Stone said.
The new Stipulation and Order expands existing Sheff opportunities by making available 407 seats in new Sheff magnets, adds another 250 new seats if a satisfactory Hartford location can be found for the new Lighthouse School, expresses the goal of adding 500 new seats in the suburban Open Choice program and expands existing Sheff magnets and programs by a growth of 696 seats (i.e. current services growth).
The Stipulation also sets the framework for negotiations toward a new stipulation to begin in January 2014. “We will approach the new negotiations with vigor to ensure the Supreme Court’s mandate is expeditiously enforced.” noted Dennis Parker, Director of ACLU’s Racial Justice Program and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case.
Attorneys in the case are Martha Stone, Executive Director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy, Dennis Parker of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, Vincent Southerland and Leticia Smith-Evans of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and attorney Wesley Horton.
Read the full statement here.
The Center for Children’s Advocacy fights for the legal rights of Connecticut’s most vulnerable children and youth. Center attorneys provide unparalleled individual legal representation for abused and neglected children and for those who suffer from inadequate educational support, a lack of access to healthcare or mental health care, or juvenile justice involvement. Unique relationships with state policy makers and administrative leaders enable the Center to effect systemic change that improves the lives of thousands of children each year. Since 1997, the Center for Children’s Advocacy has been a powerful voice for the state’s most vulnerable children and has given disadvantaged youth the support and encouragement they need to speak up for themselves. For more information, visit www.kidscounsel.org. Follow the Center for Children’s Advocacy on Twitter (@kidscounsel) and Facebook.
The Racial Justice Program (RJP) is a program of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nations leading advocate of civil liberties and civil rights. The RJP’s mission is to preserve and extend the constitutional rights of people of color. Committed to combating racism in all its forms, it advocacy includes litigation, community organizing and training, legislative initiatives, and public education.
Founded in 1940, LDF has served as the leading law firm fighting for racial justice in America. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. For seven decades, LDF has worked to dismantle racial segregation and ensure equal educational opportunities at our nation’s public schools.