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updated: 12/29/2010 5:52 PM

U-46 plaintiffs fight bid to dismiss of racial bias suit

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The attorneys for students embroiled in a racial bias lawsuit against Elgin Area School District U-46 are disputing the district's claims that the case be decided in its favor because the plaintiffs have not been harmed by their policies.

In a response filed in federal court Wednesday, attorneys for the students said the district's 2004 boundary changes and policies related to assignment of schools, bilingual programs and gifted programs discriminated against black and Hispanic students.

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"As stated in our motion, it is clear that the plaintiffs have been injured and continue be injured by district policies and practices," said Carol Ashley, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "While the district may want people to believe that overcrowding no longer exists, the reality is that the only reason capacity numbers are lowered is because of budgetary decisions. This is just a paper reduction."

Ashley said overcrowded schools in minority neighborhoods still exist while schools in predominantly white neighborhoods remain underutilized.

But attorneys for the school district said none of the students suffered injuries in any of the areas cited.

"We strongly disagree with the plaintiffs' position and we think that the arguments in our motion are very strong," said Patricia Whitten, an attorney for the school district. "Most, if not all, of the claims that plaintiffs have made in the amended complaint cannot be supported by the plaintiffs, and therefore those claims should be dismissed."

Earlier this month, attorneys for the school district filed a motion arguing the plaintiffs lacked standing, or grounds to bring a case. They asked the court to rule in favor of the school district because only three of the 11 plaintiffs attend elementary school, only two are in bilingual programs and none has ever applied for a gifted program in the district.

The district's reply to today's filing is due January 7, with a hearing on the matter set for Jan. 28. The first phase of the trial, which will address claims U-46 assigned minority students to inferior schools, remains scheduled to begin Feb. 28.

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