The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined its co-counsel in signing an agreement with the Connecticut State Department of Education to further the implementation of desegregation remedies required by Sheff v. O’Neill, the landmark Connecticut Supreme Court case which required the State to end the racial and ethnic segregation faced by Hartford area schoolchildren. The agreement extends a prior agreement signed by the parties in 2008 designed to bring the State into compliance with the Court’s original 1996 ruling and also places significant additional obligations upon the State to ensure compliance. The State’s failure to satisfy the goals of the 2008 order over the past five years precipitated the need for the one-year extension and the new obligations.
The Sheff litigation originated with a 1989 lawsuit filed by LDF and its partners challenging the racial segregation and economic inequity of Hartford area public schools. In a groundbreaking decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court found that the State’s maintenance of racially isolated schools in Hartford violated state constitutional prohibitions on segregation and discrimination, and contravened the state’s affirmative constitutional obligation to provide all schoolchildren with substantially equal educational opportunities. The years following the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling have focused on providing Hartford area school children access to quality, integrated educational opportunities, including new quality inter-district magnet schools, and funding for Open Choice programs that allow Hartford students to attend schools in suburban districts. The remedial plan also includes other educational programs, accountability measures and a significant monitoring component.
The agreement announced today provides for several initiatives to meet desegregation goals, including creation of new magnet schools, expanded capacity at existing magnet schools, and additional incentive funds for suburban school districts participating in the Open Choice program. The agreement also sets the stage for the next multi-year agreement between the plaintiffs and the state. The parties will commence negotiations immediately with a goal to reach a new agreement by October 2013.
LDF attorneys Vincent Southerland and Leticia Smith-Evans represent plaintiffs in the case along with co-counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Children’s Advocacy, and local cooperating attorney Wesley Horton.