Lawsuits allege closures discriminate on basis of race and violate rights of the disabled. Christian Farr reports.
Parents of Chicago Public Schools children filed two class-action lawsuits Wednesday to stop the city's school district from closing 53 elementary schools.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Teachers Union said violations against the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Illinois Civil Rights Act (ICRA) are the focus of the civil rights suits with complaints of race and disabilities at the core, the CTU said.
The move comes a week before the school board votes on the closings.
“There is no way that in a few short months the Board can responsibly do the counseling and provide the support services these children with disabilities need,” CTU Financial Secretary and former special education teacher Kristine Mayle said in a statement. “These proposed closings will inevitably put our students at greater risk for academic failure.”
Another suit claims racial discrimination by the board, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the city "as parents seek to block the Board from continuing to select African-American children in school closings."
“The Board says they use neutral criteria, but somehow they keep finding criteria that will single out only African-American children,” parent Frances Newman said.
In response CPS said, "too many children today are trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools cheating them of the investments they need to succeed in the classroom.
"Instead of offering up solutions," the statement continues, "CTU continues to protect a status quo that doesn't put our children first. Consolidating underutilized schools is necessary to give children the resources they need to access a quality, 21st century education."
CPS announced plans in March to close the schools in an effort to address the district's $1 billion deficit, make better use of resources and improve education in the nation's third-largest district.
Since then hundreds of students, teachers and union members have rallied against the proposed closings. The CTU has said a single school closure is one too many and 50 or more would be catastrophic for the district.
Another big concern for many parents fighting to keep their schools in tact has been the fear that some students would need to cross potentially-unsafe gang boundaries. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said there are plans in place to expand and enhance the district's "safe passage" program.
It was reported this week that Chicago firefighters were quietly ordered to join in staffing the safe passage routes beginning on the first day of school Aug. 26. Their presence would continue for the first three weeks of the school year.