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Sheff v. O'Neill
Connecticut Supreme Court
238 Conn. 1, 678 A.2d 1267 (1996)
In Connecticut, statutory law created school districts along the boundaries of existing cities and required students to attend public schools in the districts in which they resided. In Hartford school district (Hartford), 92 percent of public-school students were Black or Latino. Most of Hartford’s students came from single-parent poor homes in which English was not spoken. In the surrounding 21 school districts, only seven school districts had minority enrollment that exceeded 10 percent. Hartford’s students performed significantly lower on standardized tests than students in the surrounding districts. Sheff (plaintiff) sued the state (defendant) under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article first, §§ 1 and 20 of the state constitution. The trial court found for the plaintiffs, concluding that enforcement of the districting statutes was the most important factor in the racial and ethnic imbalance in Hartford schools. The state appealed, arguing that judicial relief for educational disparities required a showing of intentional discrimination.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Peters, C.J.)
Concurrence (Berdon, J.)
Dissent (Borden, J.)
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