The plaintiffs in the Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case are more frustrated than anyone that a significant number of Hartford students of color remain in highly segregated, low-performing schools. We are now more than two decades past the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that, as a result of racial and ethnic isolation in Hartford’s schools, “[e]very passing day denies … children their constitutional right to a substantially equal education.”
From the day the case was decided up to now, we have been profoundly disturbed at the slow pace and the limited scope of the state’s efforts to provide an education for Hartford children that satisfies their constitutional rights. Over the past decades, we have returned to court multiple times to speed up the process of implementing a remedy and have consistently tried to assure that all students would have the opportunity to realize the benefits of a high quality, integrated education.
We acknowledge the state’s obligation to provide a high-quality education to all students regardless of whether they attend schools open to them because of the Sheff case or neighborhood schools. While fighting for the maximum number of seats in magnet and choice programs, we have also urged measures that would bring benefits to schools that are not magnets. Our suggestions included using magnet schools as partners to neighborhood schools to help them provide greater educational opportunities by sharing facilities, staff and training. But the fact that more than 50 percent of Hartford students remain in segregated, under performing schools and that thousands of students remain on waiting lists to get into magnet or choice schools bears witness to the inadequacy of state efforts to date.
Dennis Parker is director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Project. Deuel Ross is an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Martha Stone is executive director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford. They are attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Sheff vs. O’Neill school desegregation case.
Read the full op-ed here.