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updated: 11/20/2013 2:33 PM

U-46 discrimination case back in court Friday

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An end could be in sight in the eight-year-long discrimination case against Elgin Area School District U-46 as attorneys try to hash out an amicable agreement Friday, avoiding an appeal of the judge's July 11 decision.

Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to appear for a conference at 10:30 a.m. in federal Judge Robert Gettleman's chambers at the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago.

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"I think we are going to need some more time, but it's possible," Patricia Whitten, the attorney representing U-46, said of a possible agreement.

Whitten declined to offer any details about negotiations. "We all have agreed that none of us will talk about what's going on behind the scenes."

In July, Gettleman ruled in favor of U-46 on two of the three main issues in the 2005 case, yet determined the school district discriminated against Latino students by placing them in a separate, segregated gifted program. He has called for U-46 to fix issues with the gifted program by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

The original lawsuit, filed by five black and Latino families, was prompted by U-46 changing its school boundaries in 2004 and concentrating students in neighborhood schools. The plaintiffs said the boundary changes discriminated against minorities by leaving them in inferior, overcrowded schools while sending their white peers to newer, more spacious facilities. Gettleman found in the district's favor on that issue.

His ruling about the gifted program applied to how it was run before 2009. Any changes made to the program since then will have to be factored in before U-46 corrects any inequities.

Both sides have been working behind closed doors since the July 11 ruling to reach a settlement.

Whitten said the U-46 school board has not yet decided whether to appeal the judge's decision.

Fighting the lawsuit has plunged the district's tort fund into a $21 million deficit as of the beginning of this school year, which has been the biggest drain on the district's finances, officials have said.

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