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updated: 8/5/2011 3:37 PM

U-46 bias trial judge wants to hear all evidence

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A federal judge will not rule on the first phase of the desegregation lawsuit filed against Elgin Area School District U-46 until he has heard all the evidence from the Chicago law firm suing the district.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman on Thursday denied without prejudice the school district's motion for a judgment on the first phase of the trial.

A filing from the district in March argued that during six days of evidence in early March, the plaintiffs failed to prove the district intentionally discriminated against minorities. Attorneys for the school district said, therefore, the district did not need to present a legal defense.

But on Thursday, the judge was unprepared to enter a ruling without hearing further evidence, said Patricia Whitten, an attorney for U-46.

"Ultimately, he is not quite ready," Whitten said. "There are a number of questions remaining about the plaintiff's case that he feels he needs to hear more on before making a decision."

Stewart Weltman, an attorney with the Chicago-based Futterman and Howard law firm representing the plaintiffs, said he welcomes the opportunity to move ahead with the lawsuit.

"We are going to proceed," Weltman said. "We are going to put on the rest of our case and they are going to have to put on their case."

The trial will now continue with both sides presenting their whole cases instead of in stages as first agreed upon, an attorney for the school district said Friday.

The initial phase claims the school district had discriminated against minority students by sending them to neighborhood schools that were more crowded and used more mobile classrooms than predominantly white schools after boundary changes in 2004.

Plaintiffs must show intentional discrimination to prove U-46 violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In the remaining phases, which now will be streamlined, plaintiffs claim the district provided minority students inadequate bilingual services and denied them access to gifted programs.

Gettleman asked the plaintiffs for a list of witnesses and exhibits, which are due Aug. 12. The parties will then hold a planning meeting with the judge on Aug. 18, at which point the judge could set trial dates, Whitten said.

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