Two predominantly black school districts are suing over the breakup of a suburban Chicago athletic league, saying racism led more than two dozen high schools to pull out and create their own, predominantly white leagues.
The federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday claims the decision to split up the 33-team South Inter-Conference Association — one of Illinois' largest high school leagues — creates "separate and segregated conferences" and amounts to "white flight."
Burt Odelson, an attorney for several of the school districts leaving SICA, said any charge that the breakup was racially motivated is "utter nonsense."
He said the move was based on geography and school rivalries and had been discussed for several years.
The lawsuit was filed by parents, students and the school boards of Thornton Township and Thornton Fractional — which represent five of the 11 schools remaining in SICA, 10 of which are predominantly black. It asks the court to reunite the league and appoint a monitor to enforce compliance.
"We are being deprived the opportunity to compete against other children and other different ethnicities," said Thornwood High School student Constance Stanley, who said her suburban Chicago speech team won't have the same breadth of competition now.
The SICA districts decided in December 2004 to realign the league. Some of the seceding schools began competing in a new conference this school year, and others are set to leave SICA at the end of the year.
Officials at the districts leaving SICA have denied that race played a role in the decision.