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Judge denies motion to add, remove plaintiffs in U46 trial

Updated: July 1, 2012 11:41AM

CHICAGO — “I sort of have a very definite idea about where I’m going with this case,” Judge Robert W. Gettleman said Thursday.

Gettleman is deciding the racial discrimination lawsuit against Elgin School District U46 in a bench trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

That suit alleges U46 discriminated against black and Hispanic students in its 2004 school boundary plan by placing them in overcrowded schools and not offering them access to its gifted and academy programs, as well as appropriate help to English Language Learner students.

The judge’s idea of where he is going with the case evidently does not include adding three new plaintiffs to the lawsuit and removing five who no longer are students in the state’s second-largest school district. He denied plaintiff attorneys’ motion to do that Thursday.

That motion would have added as plaintiffs Jazlynn Mendoza, Orlando Rivera and Brooklynn Rivera, all minors by their parent Janthina Rivera.

It also would have removed from the lawsuit Jose Sifuentes, Mariana and Yelitza Burciaga, and Danielle and Deonte McFadden.

The lawsuit first was filed by nine Hispanic students and their parents in February 2005, and the McFaddens were added as plaintiffs in May of that year. Danielle and Deonte’s siblings Daniel, Dinah and Deanna McFadden still would have remained plaintiffs in the suit.

The Sifuentes and Burciaga families were added as plaintiffs in May 2006. Kristianne Sifuentes and Eduardo, Grissella and Jocelyn Burciaga still would have remained plaintiffs in the suit.

Plaintiff attorney Stewart Weltman of Futterman Howard Ashley & Weltman called the motion “anticipatory.”

Weltman said by the time the trial is set to end in August, it will have taken a year and a half. The day before, the judge had set two days in June and two in August as the last in the trial.

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” Gettleman joked.

After the trial, there may be appeals “one way or another,” Weltman said. And, he said, “kids graduate.”

Gettleman said a similar motion may become necessary in the future. But he pointed to the 1998 “Corey H.” case, in which he ordered Chicago Public Schools to grant equal access to schools, classes and programs for children with disabilities.

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit just upheld that decision in 2002, and, he said, “Corey H. probably is a grandfather right now.”

He also said he might have added new plaintiffs who were in “the exact same position” as one of the existing plaintiffs. But, he said, the new plaintiffs would add new claims to the lawsuit.

“I just don’t see it,” Gettleman said. “I think of this as adding a tempest to a teapot.”

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