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updated: 12/7/2010 6:21 PM

U-46 seeks dismissal of racial bias suit

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Attorneys for Elgin Area School District U-46 have filed a new motion arguing that the plaintiffs in the long-running racial bias case against the district have in many instances not suffered the wrongs alleged in the lawsuit.

If the motion is successful, the lawsuit, first filed in 2005 in response to 2004 school boundary changes, could be dismissed.

The motion focuses on the issue of standing. To have standing, plaintiffs in a case have to demonstrate they have been harmed by the defendant's actions, although that question is often answered by the courts as it mostly likely will be in the U-46 case.

If the plaintiffs cannot demonstrate standing, they have no grounds to bring a case and the case is usually dismissed, even when the plaintiffs are representatives in a class-action lawsuit, such as the case U-46 is facing.

"The named plaintiffs have to have suffered injury in order to be class representatives," said Patricia Whitten, an attorney for U-46. "It essentially would end the case if we were successful with our motion."

The lawsuit against U-46 claims the district discriminated against black and Hispanic students in three areas: assignment to schools (particularly elementary schools), bilingual programs and gifted programs.

But according to the district's motion, only three of the 11 remaining plaintiffs attend elementary schools, only two are in bilingual programs and none has ever applied for a gifted program in the district.

"We feel that none of them have standing to raise the issues in the second amended complaint with respect to student assignment, bilingual programs or gifted," Whitten said. "They haven't in fact suffered any injury in any of those areas."

But an attorney for the plaintiffs suggested that the district's motion was a typical pretrial maneuver to get the case dismissed on procedural grounds without addressing the merits of the complaint.

"This is something we typically see from defendants on the eve of trial, procedural-type motions," said Carol Ashley, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "We are confident that we will be able to respond and the case will continue to move forward."

The plaintiffs' response to the motion is due Dec. 23, with a hearing set on the matter for Jan. 28. The first phase of the trial, which will address claims U-46 assigned minority students to inferior schools, is still set to begin on Feb. 28.

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