A Superior Court judge in Hartford heard closing arguments Thursday in the long-running Sheff vs. Oâ€™Neill school desegregation case.
In 1996, the CT Supreme Court ruled that the racial and economic isolation of Hartfordâ€™s schoolchildren violated their right to an equal educational opportunity, and left it up to the state to figure out a way to resolve the problem. Nearly 12 years later, Hartfordâ€™s schools remain essentially as segregated as they were when suit was filed.
Plaintiffsâ€™ attorney Wesley Horton told the court that the reason for the failure, is that the state has never created a comprehensive desegregation plan. "Unless your honor orders a comprehensive plan now, with binding goals and with binding timetables, a second generation of schoolchildren will be denied their constitutional right," says Horton.
But Assistant Attorney General Ralph Urban said the state has worked hard and spent huge sums of money on desegregation efforts. He said the state is not the cause of the failure.
"This is a completely voluntary system right now," says Urban. "This system relies upon the willingness of suburban districts to open up seats in choice. It relies on the willingness of parents to send their children to interdistrict magnet schools."
John Rose, lawyer for the city of Hartford argued in favor of court supervision and the appointment of a special master to oversee the stateâ€™s desegregation efforts. A ruling is expected in the coming weeks.