Spurred by lawsuit, metro superintendents look to address racial equity

School superintendents from around the Twin Cities metro are holding meetings to ask parents, students and communities how to create more equitable schools.

The meetings are set for February and March and aim to create a list of steps to improve racial integration and outcomes in schools.

The plan was spurred by a lawsuit against the state that claims segregation leads to inadequate education at some metro-area schools.

The lawsuit argues that many Minneapolis and St. Paul schools have disproportionately high numbers of students of color and poor students, while some suburban school districts and individual schools within the two metro districts are overwhelmingly white.

The school districts holding the feedback meetings are not party to the suit.

"Some questions have been, 'Well what happens if this lawsuit gets settled or it ends?' I don't think that this work will be done," Anoka-Hennepin schools superintendent David Law said. "Our current results are unacceptable.

"We can do so much better for all of our students, and we're creatively thinking about it, and we're gathering input from our students impacted."

A school segregation lawsuit settled in 2000 resulted in a program transporting low-income students from Minneapolis to suburban school districts.

But lawyer Paula Forbes of the firm Forbes Solutions, who is helping lead the meetings, said solutions should go beyond moving students to create integration.

"That's an old, limiting belief based on 1954 methods of integration," Forbes said. "What we're trying to do is move those limiting beliefs out of the way and say what does a new school model look like?"

The superintendents aim for a report by spring or summer. Meetings will be at various metro-area locations through the beginning of March.

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