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'Education Stealing' Charges Dismissed

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A state judge in Hartford, Conn., last week dismissed charges against four parents in the city accused of "stealing an education" by enrolling their children illegally in the suburban Bloomfield school system.

But the lawyer representing one of the defendants said he would file suit within the next few months to test whether district boundaries can be used to deny parents from the inner city the opportunity to provide a high-quality education for their children.

"We have a situation where the poor are being educated in one center, the middle class in another, and the rich in a third through the arbitrary designation of school districts," said M. Donald Cardwell, the lawyer for Saundra Foster.

He said he was also concerned that a few families were "selectively prosecuted" and characterized the charges against his client as a case of "false arrest."

"The Connecticut constitution specifically mandates that there shall be 'free public elementary and secondary education,"' he said. "If education is free, how can you charge for larceny, which is a wrongful misappropriation of funds?"

Judge Joseph Purtill dismissed the charges after John M. Bailey, the state's attorney, refused to prosecute.

The Connecticut State Board of Education, Commissioner Gerald N. Tirrozi, state legislators, Hartford's Mayor Thirman L. Milner, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Bloomfield school board, and others had requested that the charges against the Hartford parents be dropped.

Ms. Foster, Elizabeth Brown, Claude Johnson, and Norma Wright (who was named as a defendant in May after the other defendants were arrested), could have faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted on first-degree larceny charges.--sr

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