Modern day desegregation battle for Twin Cities schools

If you thought the desegregation battles of a generation ago were over, you’re wrong. Thursday in Minneapolis, a class action lawsuit was filed against the State of Minnesota to come up with a better integration plan for the Twin Cities metro.

The attorneys behind the lawsuit are the same attorneys who launched a similar effort in the 1990s. They argue the state is not offering equal protection under the constitution, and they have a number of parents who agree.

“I felt all the time that we were living in small Mexico in the United States,” said Alex Cruz, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. “And if I want them to succeed later in life and do better, they have to integrate and be part of society.”

At a news conference Thursday, attorney John Schulman argued the state has failed to provide an adequate education.

“An unequal education is by definition is not an adequate education, and it’s that simple,” Schulman said.

The lawsuit uses Department of Education test score data to make its case. In the latest 8th grade level standard reading tests, only 44 percent of Minneapolis students passed. 39 percent passed in St. Paul.

Yet in Edina, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Woodbury and Mahtomedi, a far greater percentage of students pass. But the attorneys argue the solution is not more busing.

“Clearly it’s going to involve a change in school attendance areas,” Schulman said. “Whether that actually adds any busing at all I think is very questionable, because many kids will go shorter bus rides, some kids will go longer bus rides, but it will be a mix.” 

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius was in northern Minnesota on Thursday and hadn’t seen the lawsuit, but in a statement said, “The Minnesota Department of Education is committed to helping every student achieve academic success.”

But these parents believe success happens faster when children of color and ethnicity aren’t separated by schools.

“It’s like having small countries in the U.S. when we all live here,” Cruz said. “We should integrate and all learn to live together and get the better or best out of every culture.”

The lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County, does not ask for injunctive relief. It simply asks a judge to order the state to remedy the violations of state law -- a solution that’s anything but simple.