U-46 bias suit reaches next stage

Almost five years after the initial filing, parties in the Elgin Area School District U-46 racial bias suit met Friday with a federal judge about bringing the case to trial.

The meeting, which occurred in Judge Robert W. Gettleman's chambers at the Everett Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, served as a preliminary pretrial conference.

Gentleman ordered the parties to file a pretrial order - paperwork which prepares the case for trial - by May 10. He also scheduled another pretrial conference May 27.

The parties are currently wrapping up expert discovery, the final part of the evidence exchange before trial.

The class-action lawsuit arose out of the district's 2004 decision to redraw U-46's attendance boundaries. The five Elgin families suing claim the new boundaries violated the constitutional rights of black and Hispanic students by placing them in crowded, older schools; busing them farther and more often than white students; and providing them inferior educational opportunities.

Chicago law firm Futterman and Howard, which represents the five Elgin families suing the district, and the district's two firms, Washington D.C.-based Hogan and Hartson and Chicago-based Franczek Radelet, have filed paperwork with the court adding more trial attorneys to their case rosters.

To date, the litigation has cost U-46 more than $8.2 million in legal fees.