The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule shortly in high-profile cases challenging voluntary racial school integration programs in Seattle and Louisville. The cases raise the question of whether school integration matters, and, if so, why?
In her fascinating new book, The Children in Room E4, Susan Eaton provides a compelling answer. The book tells the story surrounding a 1989 lawsuit, Sheff v. O’Neill, that argued that the Connecticut constitution’s affirmative provision that all children should be provided a “substantially equal education” meant the right not only to receive equal funding but also to attend racially and economically integrated schools — whether or not the state was itself responsible for segregation, and whether or not students lived in the city or suburbs.
Eaton’s book tells the story of a band of dedicated lawyers who brought the suit, won a Connecticut Supreme Court victory in 1996, and have struggled since then to have the decision enforced. About half of the book describes what life is like for students in one segregated Hartford school, Simpson-Waverly Elementary, particularly the third-grade class in room E4 led by a heroic teacher, Lois Luddy. While Luddy does a wonderful job with her students, she is also a strong supporter of the Sheff litigation. “Everyone separate? It’s not working,” Luddy says.
Join us for a roundtable discussion on the future of racial school integration with Susan Eaton and a panel of other experts. Is school integration important? If the Supreme Court curtails the use of race, what alternatives might be available to districts?
John Brittain, Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Right Under Law
Susan Eaton, Research Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School
Frederick M. Hess, Resident scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
Cynthia G. Brown, Director of Education Policy, Center for American Progress