Torres testifies to ‘strong programming’ in U46 trial (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

CHICAGO — School District U46 Superintendent Jose Torres never could be an “Undercover Boss,” he joked. After his “Listening and Learning” tour of U46 schools in the months after he took charge in July 2008, everybody in the Elgin district knows what he looks like, Torres said.

Still, in the four years since that tour, the superintendent never has received a complaint from families of students who are black, Hispanic or English Language Learners about discrimination in the district’s gifted or academy programs, he said.

In fact, he said, “One of the reasons I applied to the position is it wasn’t a broken system.”

Torres testified Tuesday as the defendants began their case in the racial discrimination trial against U46 in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The lawsuit, originally brought against the district by 14 plaintiffs in 2006, alleges the state’s second-largest school district discriminated against black and Hispanic students by placing them in overcrowded schools in its 2004 school boundary plan. It also allegedly did not offer those students access to gifted and advanced programs or appropriate help to ELL students.

Torres’ appearance followed several hours of testimony from parents about students and student records, during which the courtroom was closed, according to U46 attorney Maree Sneed of Hogan Lovells. Sneed declined further comment because those records are confidential under federal law.

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