A lawsuit has been filed by parents of Hartford, Connecticut, school children charging it’s unfair to limit the black and Hispanic enrollment of much-desired magnet schools to 75 percent of the student population.

The case was brought by Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of nine Hartford parents against the state Department of Education’s race-based enrollment quotas and lottery.

PLF explains the magnet schools offer special instruction and opportunities and attract a diverse student body. They are described as far outpacing traditional public schools “in terms of student achievement.”

As a result, places in their classrooms are highly sought by students and parents.

But a quota system set up following a state Supreme Court ruling in 1996 that found unconstitutional de facto segregation in Hartford’s schools is creating issues.

The policy, which sought to end “racial isolation” in the city’s neighborhood schools, requires that 25 percent of the seats in magnet schools be reserved for white and Asian students.

The objective was to draw suburban white and Asian students to the city’s schools.

But Hartford’s “failing neighborhood schools remain heavily segregated and high-performing magnet schools are forced to turn away black and Latino students – based only on their race,” PLF said.

PLF attorney Joshua Thompson asserted Connecticut’s race-based admissions process violates students’ constitutional rights.

“We are fighting for their right to get the best education possible, and their race shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to attend an excellent school,” he said.

The case, Robinson v. Wentzell, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut this week. It challenges the quota system and lottery as violations of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

The intent of limiting black and Hispanic students to 75 percent of a school’s population is to have racial diversity. But the consequence is that hundreds of classroom seats remain empty each year because there are not enough whites and Asians coming in from the suburbs, and blacks and Hispanics are not allowed to fill the empty seats.

“Worthy kids are denied the opportunity for an exceptional education for no reason other than skin color,” PLF charges.

One plaintiff parent is LaShawn Robinson, whose son, Jarod, was denied admission to a magnet school even though had space for him.

“Those seats just stay empty, no matter what,” Robinson said. “Even if I want Jarod to have a seat, he can’t get in unless kids from the suburbs come in, too. It’s like Connecticut says, ‘You have to have a white kid in a classroom for a black kid to be educated.'”



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