Settlement reached in pupil assignment case

Washington, D.C. – On July 13, 1999, the St. Paul, MN school district agreed to settle CIR’s case challenging a racial set-aside in student assignments to its acclaimed Capitol Hill Magnet school. At issue was a school district policy that left available classroom seats unfilled in order to achieve the district’s desired “racial balance.”

As part of the settlement, the school board agreed to admit to Capitol Hill the four children named as plaintiffs in the suit as well as all the children who were on the 1998-99 first-grade waiting list. According to school officials, about 30 students would be allowed to enroll.

The district also agreed not to use race as an admissions criteria in any of its schools for five years. The agreement barring the use of race is in addition to new state regulations that took effect earlier this week that prohibit any public school in Minnesota from using race-based admissions. The policy change ended 25 years of required racial balancing.

Kirk Kolbo, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said, “The settlement is a victory not just for the four plaintiffs in this case but for all St. Paul school students. School assigments can no longer be made on the basis of skin color.”

Michael McDonald, President of CIR, commented, “This settlement is further evidence of the sea change regarding racial preferences. Increasingly, parents, educators and civic leaders recognize that using racial preferences to engineer a particular mix of students is both illegal and unfair. We are pleased the St. Paul school board acted quickly to resolve this matter without the need for litigation.”