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Plaintiffs make closing arguments against U46 in racial bias trial

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Updated: January 19, 2013 6:02AM

Plaintiffs’ attorneys in the racial discrimination lawsuit against Elgin School District U46 filed their closing arguments Friday in a bench trial that has been on and off since March 2011.

Those arguments were filed under seal last week as a written brief; a redacted version was made public Monday.

More than 94 pages, the brief by the Chicago-based law firm of Futterman, Howard, Ashley and Weltman alleges the second largest school district in Illinois excluded students who were black and Hispanic from its mainstream gifted programs “in an effort to maintain a disproportionate number of whites.” It also “harmed” students in the way it ran its English Language Learner program, it said.

It claims U46 implemented a new school boundary plan in 2004 that “intentionally pushed Hispanic students back into already overcrowded schools.”

That discriminatory intent can be proved in part by the effects of those programs and boundary changes, according to the brief: “Effect also may prove intent because ‘people usually intend the natural consequences of their actions.’”

In the brief, as well as the trial, attorneys have pointed to U46’s use of mobile classrooms immediately after redistricting as proof of overcrowding at schools with populations that were more than 50 percent Hispanic. Those mobiles were in “poor and unsafe” condition, it said.

Attorneys also said that there were “gross numerical discrepencies” in the representation of black and Hispanic students in the gifted and academy programs, according to the brief. That, in addition to the district’s gifted program for Spanish-speaking students and its screening process for its mainstream gifted program, prove minority students were excluded, it said.

Attorneys have pointed to a directive former U46 Superintendent Connie Neale reportedly gave during the 2002-03 school year to exit all ELL students once they’d been in the program three years, rather than once they’d demonstrated proficiency in English.

All that violates the discriminatory intent provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Bill of Rights and 1964 Civil Rights Act, according to the brief.

The defense for U46 had rested its case in late August, and the first closing arguments originally had been scheduled for late November.

U46 attorneys now are scheduled to file their closing arguments as a written brief by Wednesday, Jan. 30, according to court documents. Plaintiffs then have until Feb. 20 to respond, those documents said.

The Elgin school district confirmed late last month it so far has paid $16,791,643.79 in legal fees to defend itself in the racial discrimination lawsuit. It is being decided by Judge Robert W. Gettleman in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

That suit first was filed by nine Hispanic students and their parents in February 2005.

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