Minnesota sued over Twin Cities' segregated schools

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A lawsuit filed against Minnesota Thursday claims the state is failing to give an adequate education to poor and minority children attending segregated schools in the Twin Cities.

Seven families and a non-profit group announced the lawsuit arguing that by allowing Minneapolis and St. Paul schools to be segregated by race and poverty, the state is falling short of its Constitutional obligation, WCCO reports.

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The Star Tribune reports civil rights attorneys Daniel and John Shulman, who are leading the case, are asking a court to create a metro-wide desegregation plan that would involve the better-integrated suburban schools.

A separate report in the Star Tribune on Sunday tallied numbers showing that elementary schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul are more segregated than they've been in a generation.

The newspaper's analysis found that while suburban schools are more diverse and integrated than ever, a majority of the elementary schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul have enrollments that are 80 percent or more minority students.

In addition, the poverty rates at those predominantly minority schools more than double the rates at integrated schools.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius told media outlets she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it, but said the Education Department is committed to helping every student achieve academic success.

Echo of an earlier lawsuit

The same attorneys who announced Thursday's lawsuit represented the NAACP in a similar suit 20 years ago.

That case eventually led to a program allowing students from low-income Minneapolis families to enroll in suburban schools. (According to a MinnPost timeline, non-white enrollment in Twin Cities suburban schools in 1995 was 8 percent.)

But the Shulmans said Thursday the 1995 case did not produce the sought-after changes. Daniel Shulman – the father of John Shulman – told KSTP"We hoped it would be the beginning of desegregation, but instead it proved to be the beginning of more segregation."

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Roxanne O'Brien, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who has two children attending a Minneapolis school tells MPR News segregated schools prevent people from getting a truer picture of people from different cultures, adding that she hopes the lawsuit will lead not only to desegregation but to a conversation – "a real teaching moment for everyone where we learn how to work with each other."

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