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updated: 4/19/2011 5:41 PM

U-46 plaintiffs: Racial bias case should stand

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It took Elgin Area School District U-46 14 pages to argue that plaintiffs suing the district for racial discrimination have not proven their case.

It took the plaintiffs' attorneys 122 pages to respond.

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In their 6-year-old lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim U-46 discriminated against minorities by placing them in inferior schools, denying access to gifted programs and providing inadequate bilingual services.

In a March court filing, U-46's attorneys argued plaintiffs did not prove their case after six days of trial in early March. Because of that, they argued, U-46 does not even need to mount a legal defense.

If U-46's motion succeeds, the case would end. But U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said the motion is more a chance to clarify the issues in the case, with the trial set to resume in early June.

Plaintiffs' attorneys, from the Chicago law firm of Futterman Howard, filed their response Tuesday. Judge Gettleman apparently imposed a 15-page limit on the filings -- but plaintiffs' attorneys say that's not enough.

"Responding to such a motion requires a full and thorough discussion of the evidence and applicable law," they write, in a motion that asks Gettleman to waive the page limit.

The 122-page response, complete with a table of contents, shows that U-46's use of mobile classrooms is at the heart of the plaintiffs' case.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have argued U-46 used mobiles chiefly at high-minority schools, that the presence of mobiles at a building is a symptom of overcrowding and that mobiles are inferior to permanent classrooms.

In their Tuesday filing, they write: "A long line of cases, including seminal Supreme Court decisions, holds that where a school district requires minorities to attend classes in mobile classrooms when there are available permanent seats in other schools, particularly in predominantly white schools ... (that) creates a strong inference, if not a presumption, that the district has acted with discriminatory intent."

Moreover, plaintiffs' attorneys say the court has not even heard the whole story yet. The trial was broken up into three pieces; plaintiffs have only presented the first phase, dealing with how students were assigned to schools.

"Defendant's motion is premature in that plaintiffs have not yet (presented) their entire case with respect to defendant's conduct as a whole," the plaintiffs' attorneys wrote.

In their original motion, U-46's attorneys argued the district did not intentionally discriminate against minorities and that the plaintiffs used a misleading measure of crowding in schools.

Oral arguments on U-46's motion are set for May 5.

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