A new agreement was reached in the ongoing Sheff vs. O’Neill case to continue the existing desegregation efforts at schools in Hartford, Connecticut and the surrounding suburbs through at least June 30, 2017. The most recent stipulationsets new goals, including increasing by 300 the number of seats in suburban schools that are available to students in Hartford through the Open Choice program. Open Choice offers Hartford students the voluntary opportunity to attend high quality schools in suburban towns at no cost to families. The agreement requires the State of Connecticut to continue to fund existing Magnet schools and other Sheff programs with the goal of placing nearly half of Hartford students in desegregated schools.
The Sheff v. O’Neill litigation originated with a 1989 lawsuit filed on behalf of Hartford students by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Children’s Advocacy, and local cooperating attorney Wesley Horton. The lawsuit alleged that the Governor of Connecticut, the State Department of Education, and other officials had failed to provide Hartford-area students with a high quality, racially integrated education as required by the State Constitution. In 1996, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the state to take the remedial measures necessary to integrate schools.
Although LDF and its co-counsel view the additional extension as a positive step in the ongoing mission to ensure that Hartford students get the high-quality educational opportunities they deserve, we remain committed to improving the pace of the progress and ultimately eradicating the racial and ethnic segregation faced by students in Hartford. While Connecticut has made inroads in providing city and suburban residents with desegregated school options over the last decade, just over half of Hartford’s students still attend racially segregated schools more than 20 years since the Supreme Court decision. LDF and its partners are working toward negotiations that we hope will produce long-term and sustainable solutions to improving educational quality for all children in Hartford. We call on leaders in the State and Hartford city Governments to join us in continuing to promote the principles of integration enshrined in the Connecticut Constitution.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.