Suit alleges policies promote Twin Cities school segregation

Speaking to reporters
Attorney John Shulman spoke to reporters Tuesday outside the Hennepin County Government Center after filing a lawsuit alleging racially segregated schools have caused a gap in achievement between minority and white students.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Updated 5:30 p.m. | Posted 1:21 p.m.

Seven families whose children attend Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools are suing the state over policies they say have resulted in high concentrations of poor and minority students in urban schools.

The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that racially segregated schools have caused a gap in achievement between minority and white students. It seeks to force the state to create a metro-wide integration plan, which would include redrawing school district boundaries.

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Attorney Dan Shulman filed a similar suit 20 years ago. However, he says the result of that lawsuit did not fix the problem.

"We now have segregation that is as bad — it's actually worse — than when we started that first case," he said Thursday. "So, we're back to do it again. And this time, we're not going to stop until we have effective desegregation."

State Education Commissioner Brenda Casellius said in a statement that she hasn't seen the lawsuit. But she said the state is committed to helping all students be successful.

Roxxanne O'Brien, a plaintiff in the suit who has two children at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School in Minneapolis, said segregated schools are harmful because they prevent students from getting a truer picture of people from different cultures.

"What I would really like to see come out of this, not just desegregation, but a conversation," she said, "a real learning moment, a real teaching moment for everyone where we learn how to work with each other and we learn the true history of how we got to this place."