Chicago Lawyers’ Committee Plaintiffs Prevail in Segregation Claim Against Elgin School District

Contact:

Paul Strauss

Co-Director of Litigation

312.202.3649

pstrauss@clccrul.org

Chicago, IL  (July 11, 2013) –  In a case involving educational inequities in the school district that includes Elgin, Illinois federal District Court Judge Robert Gettleman issued a decision on July 11, 2013 holding that the school district has discriminated against Hispanic students in the operation of the district’s gifted program.  Over 40% of the students in the school district are Hispanic, but in recent years only 2% of the students in the district’s elementary school gifted program have been Hispanic.  This is in large part because the school district operates a separate program for gifted Hispanic students who learned English as a second language.  Those students know English and are ready to participate in English-language classrooms and have been tested and found to be gifted, but are excluded from the mainstream gifted program.

 As Judge Gettleman described it, this is “a separate, segregated program” that discriminates against Hispanic students, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Judge Gettleman wrote that “there is no question that the District placed gifted Hispanic students in SET/SWAS based solely on their cultural identity.”  The Judge held that the school district, while not motivated by an evil or racist motive, engaged in intentional discrimination:  “The `inevitability or foreseeability of consequences’ permits `a strong inference that the adverse effects were desired.’”

The case will now proceed to the remedies stage in the District Court.

Plaintiffs in the case did not prevail on two other claims, involving student assignments and the school district’s operation of its English language learner program.

The case name is McFadden v. Board of Education for Illinois School District U-46, No. 05 C 0760.

Paul Strauss, of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights has helped represent the plaintiffs since March, 2012.  Lead lawyers in the case include Stewart Weltman and Carol Ashley, formerly of Futterman, Howard, Ashley, Watkins & Weltmann P.C., and Alonzo Rivas from the Mexican-American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF).

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Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. protects and promotes civil rights by bringing the strength and prestige of the private bar to bear on the problems of poverty and discrimination. Founded in 1969, the Committee champions equal justice and community development for underrepresented people by partnering with volunteer lawyers to provide litigation and transactional representation. For more information on the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.clccrul.org.