Protecting the right to a quality education for all students, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
On July 24, 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that separation-of-powers principles do not prevent the courts from ruling on whether the legislature has violated its duty to ensure an equal education opportunity, free from racial segregation and discrimination. The case will continue forward in the Hennepin County District Court
Education is a fundamental right under the Minnesota Constitution. The constitution requires the legislature to establish a "general and uniform system of public schools," which will secure a "thorough and efficient system of public schools." And both the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions guarantee the right to an education that is free from racial segregation and discrimination.
In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court set forth a constitutional obligation for desegregation across the United States. But more than 60 years later, schools in Minnesota are still segregated by race. Even lawsuits in 1971 and 1995 failed to correct the shameful failure to provide an equal education to all Minnesota students. As the U. S. Supreme Court held: “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
In November 2015, seven families and one nonprofit organization commenced a class-action lawsuit in the Hennepin County District Court against the State of Minnesota on behalf of the children and families of the Saint Paul and Minneapolis public schools. Their suit asserts that segregation in the Saint Paul and Minneapolis school districts has maintained an unfair and substandard educational environment for racial- and ethnic-minority students. They argue for desegregation of the school districts to combat inferior learning environments and establish equal-opportunity education.
The district court refused to dismiss the lawsuit, but in March 2017 the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed, dismissing the lawsuit because it presented a “nonjusticiable political question.”
Plaintiffs sought review in the Minnesota Supreme Court, and on June 1, 2017, ACLU-MN and lawyers from Maslon LLP filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting plaintiffs’ position. By doing so, ACLU-MN upholds the fundamental right to education free from racial segregation. All Minnesotans deserve a quality education in order to freely engage in their communities, state, and country. The Saint Paul and Minneapolis public schools are more segregated today than in the 1970s when Brown v. Board of Education was settled. Without intervention by the institutions established to protect such rights, racial and economic segregation and subsequent disparities will continue across Minnesota. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree.