Sheff v O’Neill school integration

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Elizabeth Horton Sheff and a coalition of city and suburban parents filed a 1989 lawsuit against then-Governor William O’Neill that called on Connecticut to end racial, ethic, and socioeconomic isolation of school children in the Hartford region and to fulfill its constitutional duty to provide equal educational opportunity for all. After a prolonged trial, the plaintiffs eventually prevailed in a 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court ruling, though have continued to struggle with state leaders in negotiating the remedy. A series of legal settlements known as Sheff I (2003), Sheff II (2008), and Sheff III (2013), have increased voluntary school desegregation through interdistrict magnet schools and the Open Choice city-suburban district transfers. As of early 2014, about 40 percent of Hartford minority students are enrolled in racially integrated schools, but not the remaining 60 percent. Nationally, Sheff v O’Neill has gained attention for advancing school integration during a time when the federal judiciary has reserved course.


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