The showdown over dozens of Chicago Public School closings returns to federal court Wednesday as hearings continue on two lawsuits aimed at stopping the closures.
Despite protests from parents and the Chicago Teachers Unions, 50 schools closed their doors early this summer as part of a plan approved by the city's Board of Education.
One lawsuit alleges racial discrimination, claiming the closures unfairly target African-American students. According to the first witness called Tuesday in court, an estimated 87 percent of the students affected by the closings are African-American, even though black students make up less than half of all CPS students.
"It is clear that the school closings have a disproportionate impact on African-American students," Dr. Pauline Lipman, a University of Chicago professor, testified.
Another of the CTU's lawsuits, filed in May, claims the closures violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
During the first day of hearings, parent Mandi Swan testified that her 10-year-old son, who is moderately autistic, will have a tough time adjusting to a new classroom setting because of his disability.
"He will have to relearn things," Swan said. "This is big to move him from one school to another."
The closures are estimated to impact about 5,000 kids with special needs, and the suit alleges the closures don't allow for adequate prep time for them to relocate. It argues that students with autism, for example, need more time to adjust.
At the end of this week's hearings, a judge will decide whether to delay these closings and set a trial date. It would be a huge victory for the parents and the CTU if that happened.