Minnesota’s high court says racial imbalances in schools alone isn’t unconstitutional, sends case back to district court
A group of parents’ long-running lawsuit against the state, arguing that racial imbalances in enrollment at some schools in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts amounts to segregation, is going back to district court.
The Minnesota Supreme Court handed down another opinion in the 8-year-old case Alejandro Cruz-Gumzman et al. v. State of Minnesota on Wednesday. It comes after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last year that unintentional racial imbalance in schools doesn’t violate the state’s constitution.
However, the parents asked the state’s high court to look further into the case and provide guidance on what standard needs to be met to prove racial segregation in schools violates the constitution.
In its ruling, the justices wrote that racial imbalances in the public schools compared to others in the district doesn’t violate the state’s constitution by itself. However, they added that the parents don’t need to prove that state action caused the racial imbalances, only that the imbalances are “a substantial factor in causing their children to receive an inadequate education.”
The case will now head back to a district court for further proceedings and a possible trial.
Daniel Shulman, an attorney for the parents, called Wednesday’s ruling “a tremendous victory for us.” In talking with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, he added that he thinks the ruling “may be the most important decision since Brown (v. the Board of Education),” the landmark 1954 decision that deemed racial segregation in schools unconstitutional.
Shulman also highlighted the efforts of the parents who’ve pursued the case.
“The public should appreciate the sacrifice and support the parents (plaintiffs) have given this case for the last eight years. … They’ve done it for the benefit of all school children in Minnesota, their courage and sacrifice should be recognized and applauded,” he said.
Shulman also highlighted the dissent authored by Chief Justice Natalie Hudson, the state’s first person of color to serve in the role, who wrote that her colleagues’ opinion that parents have to show segregation is a “substantial factor” in causing an inadequate education “has no basis in the text of the Education Clause” and even undermines its purpose.
“When these (students of color in Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools) wake up each morning, many must face the harsh reality that the school they attend, the people with whom they interact, and their measures of academic success are influenced by the color of their skin,” Hudson wrote, adding that it “disserves students of all races.”
She added that her colleagues’ hesitance to “go the full distance that the Education Clause demands,” “delays the day when all children in Minnesota will secure the full promise of the education to which they are constitutionally entitled.”