MN Supreme Court allows school segregation case to proceed

Minnesota's highest court is allowing a case to proceed, and it could have a major impact on schools across the state, as it involves what some families have described as modern day segregation.

The case had been thrown out by the state Court of Appeals, but the Minnesota Supreme Court brought it back and cleared the way for it to move forward.

Alejandro Cruz-Guzman has three children in St. Paul public schools, but he worries the city's neighborhood schools are too segregated to give his kids a good education.

"My concern is they are being told what their hopes, what their future will be like," he said. "They don't have any other backgrounds to see what other kids are doing or how they are doing in terms of education."

Cruz-Guzman is one of parents from seven families in the Minneapolis and St. Paul public school districts suing the state. They claim persistent school segregation denies poor students and students of color an adequate education.

The state had argued it’s not a judge's job to decide educational quality, but the Supreme Court ruled the courts can decide if the state has violated its constitutional responsibility. 

"I'm delighted and thrilled. It’s a landmark decision not just here, but throughout the country," he said.

Attorney Dan Shulman, who filed a similar lawsuit in the ‘90s, said the state enabled segregation through decisions to set school boundaries and exempt charter schools from desegregation plans.

A spokesperson for the department said it is reviewing the ruling and "will continue to prioritize equity as a pillar of our work and we are committed to ensuring that each student achieves their fullest potential."

"What this is really about is saving our future because our children are our future," he said. "Being integrated with kids from different backgrounds, that will enrich them and help them to see things in different ways."

The ruling means the case will go back to Hennepin County District Court. Shulman hopes the case goes to trial within a year.