CIR fights racial set-asides in St. Paul school

Washington, D.C. – The Center for Individual Rights filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, April 6 challenging racial preferences in student assignments to the acclaimed St. Paul, MN Capitol Hill Magnet school. At issue is a school district policy that leaves available classroom seats unfilled in order to achieve the district’s desired “racial balance.”

CIR and Minneapolis attorney Kirk Kolbo are representing a group of white parents whose children are on the waiting list for Capitol Hill, but who have been denied admission to the approximately 25 unfilled seats because of their race. CIR claims that denying admission to the children on account of their race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights laws.

Barbara Jacobs, one of the parents suing the school district on behalf of her daughter, commented: “The lawsuit is a last resort. We and other parents have tried for months to get the school board to do the right thing by filling these empty desks with students on the wait list. They have just ignored us.”

Admission to Capitol Hill is based on a competitive examination. In previous years, St. Paul school officials permitted suburban minority students to enroll at Capitol Hill, a policy that permitted officials to maintain their desired racial balance while filling all available slots. Last year, the board decided to prohibit suburban enrollment at Capitol. As a result of the racial mix requirement, officials now let seats go empty rather than filling them with qualified white students from the waiting list.

According to Kolbo, “denying students admission to Capitol Hill solely because of the color of their skin is both unconscionable and unconstitutional. The Constitution does not permit public school officials to impose ‘racial balance’ in the classroom.”

CIR President Michael McDonald commented, “it is hard to conceive of a student assignment policy that more clearly frustrates the ideal of equal education opportunity regardless of race. We look forward to a quick resolution of this case.”

To prevent the school district from leaving seats empty, CIR will ask the judge for a temporary restraining order that would require school officials to admit children from the waiting list.