Tag Archive | "Magnet Schools"

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Judge Rules in Favor of Robinson v. Wentzell, Says Magnet School Discrimination Case Can Move Forward


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — U.S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill on Thursday ruled that a lawsuit against the state and city of Hartford can move forward in challenging the racial quota for magnet schools aimed at integrating metropolitan area schools deemed racially imbalanced.

Judge Underhill gave the green light for plaintiffs to proceed in federal court with the Robinson v. Wentzell case, which claims that race-based enrollment quotas in public magnet schools “unjustly and unconstitutionally deny black and Hispanic children on wait list access to empty available seats in high quality magnet schools.”

At issue is the state law that mandates interdistrict magnet schools to reserve 25 percent of the classroom seats for white or Asian students. Those seats sometimes remain empty while black and Hispanic students are on a wait list because of losing out of a lottery system, advocates for the plaintiffs said. The lawsuit claims the lottery system is discriminatory.

The plaintiffs see the court’s recent ruling as a major victory.

“Yesterday was a huge victory for educational freedom and justice for Hartford black and Hispanic children and their parents,” said Gwen Samuel, Founder and President of the Connecticut Parents Union, an advocacy group based in Meriden.

LaShawn Robinson is the lead plaintiff in the case filed Feb. 15, 2018 by seven families. The California-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit on Robinson’s behalf because she believed the enrollment process for magnet schools was stacked against her son, who is black.

Robinson said she applied for her son to attend a magnet school but was denied for three consecutive years until her son, Jared, dropped out of his neighborhood school.

The lawsuit is a continuation for the long struggle for quality education for all students in a state with one of the highest achievement gap in the nation.

The state was confronted with this issue in the Sheff v. O’Neill case in 1989 when a coalition of parents and students filed a lawsuit that claimed the state denied Hartford students their civil rights in allowing them to remain in segregated schools based on race and socio-economic factors.

Robinson’s case attacks the state’s approach to a remedy for the 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling in the Sheff case, which mandates integrated schools.

“Incredibly, the state incentivizes public schools to deny Black and Hispanic children opportunities for an exceptional education for no reason other than skin color,” said Oliver Dunford, a Pacific Legal attorney for Robinson and the other plaintiffs. “This lawsuit aims to protect equal access to education for all children in Connecticut.”

The state and other intervenors, including advocates for the Sheff plaintiffs, asked the court to dismiss the case. Dennis Parker, one of the attorneys on the Sheff legal team, said at a forum in January that the Robinson case was an attempt to nullify the Sheff victory of having more than 40 magnet schools aimed at an integrated and quality educational experience for Connecticut students.

“Things we thought we won, the victories we thought prevailed in civil rights and in other areas are extremely fragile,” said Parker, who serves as executive director of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. “They are not permanent. We don’t have the luxury of saying, we won this, we can move on to the next problem because those basic wins are being attacked on a daily basis by this administration and by others outside of the administration.”

Samuel sees it differently.

“Both the State of Connecticut, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, ACLU Racial Justice Program, and the Center for Children’s Advocacy, as Sheff v. O’Neill intervenors, tried very hard to have this case thrown out of court on a variety of grounds—forgetting that every child in Connecticut regardless of their race has a right to access safe and quality educational opportunities.”

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Hartford Plans to Open Two Magnet Schools


HARTFORD —  The Hartford Board of Education on Tuesday approved proposals to open two new Sheff Magnet schools and expand the Betances STEM Magnet School at a larger space downtown.

Tuesday’s votes immediately activate the process for developing an operations plan for all three schools, school officials said.

Under the first measure, the board accepted a grant of $600,000 from the state Department of Education to find a new location for the Betances STEM Magnet School to accommodate an expanded student body of 4th-through-8th graders by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

The second item approved by the board would convert the current Montessori program at Moylan Elementary into a magnet school housing 84 Hartford students and 63 suburban students. Moreover, it creates a new Hartford Pre-K Magnet School for 180 children of ages 3 and 4 also by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

Both proposals were made possible under the terms of the new one-year negotiated agreement between the State Department of Education and the plaintiffs to the Sheff vs. O’Neil lawsuit.

With the addition of the Montessori program at Moylan and the Hartford Pre-K Magnet School, Hartford Public Schools will now be home to 17 magnet schools, seven of which specialize in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. The district’s portfolio also includes a number of themed schools such as, the Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy, the Hartford Insurance and Finance Academy (High School, Inc.), the Hartford Nursing Academy, the Hartford Law & Government Academy, the Hartford Journalism & Media Academy and the Hartford Academy of Culinary Arts.

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Hartford Magnet Schools Receive Top Ranking


HARTFORD — Four Hartford public high schools are among 16 high schools in Connecticut that have made the 2010 U.S. News and World Report’s list of America’s Best High Schools.

All four schools, which are magnet schools, selected were Capitol Preparatory Magnet, Pathways to Technology, the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy and the University High School of Science and Engineering –

These schools were selected using “sophisticated criteria that measure a school’s better-than-expected achievement gains within the income levels and racial groups that it serves,” officials said.


This was the first year that Pathways to Technology and UHSSE were ranked; the second in a row for Capitol Prep and the third year in a row for SMSA. 

U.S. News announced its list on Dec. 9. To make the list, schools must demonstrate that they are serving all of their students well and produce measurable outcomes that show they are educating their students across a broad range of performance indicators.

All four of the Hartford schools to make the list boast very high graduation rates and high rates of graduates accepted into college.

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