Friday, June 21, 2013

Clinic Files Suit on Behalf of Parents of Children Impacted by CPS Closings

Chicago parents file federal lawsuit charging CPS with racial, disabilities violations; seeks to halt school closings

“The education of students with disabilities and race discrimination are the subjects of two class action lawsuits filed [May 15, 2013] in federal court against the Chicago Board of Education by parents of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students. The suit also has the support of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The parents seek an injunction against all proposed school closings by the City and CPS for violations of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Illinois Civil Rights Act (ICRA)…

“The first suit charges the Board, CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the City of Chicago with violating Title II of the ADA in their proposal to close 53 elementary schools. It reads:

“In violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the defendants propose to carry out the closings of 53 elementary schools in a manner that does not permit a timely and orderly process either for the proper review and revision of the individualized education programs (IEPs) for the plaintiff children and over 6,000 other children in special education programs or for the extra services and counseling such children require to make the difficult transition to unfamiliar schools and unfamiliar teachers and students. By putting off their decision on the closings to the eleventh hour, or the very end of the school year – for the largest closing of public schools in American history – the defendants place the plaintiff children and other children in special education at far greater risk than their non-disabled peers. 

“The late date makes it impossible to conduct the closings without significant disruption to the programs in which these children participate and without adequate provision for the special safety risks faced by children with disabilities. In violation of federal law, this late, ill-timed, and ill-prepared program for the closing of 53 elementary schools will have a discriminatory impact upon the plaintiff children and other children with disabilities, compared to their non-disabled peers…

“The second suit charges the Board, Byrd-Bennett and the City with violations of Title II of the ADA for their proposal to close so-called ‘under-utilized’ schools and needlessly uproot, transfer, and destabilize plaintiffs and thousands of other children in special education who will suffer academic and emotional setbacks as a result, and adds a claim of racial discrimination in violation of Section 5 of the ICRA as parents seek to block the Board from continuing to select African-American children in school closings. It reads:

“[I]n violation of Section 5 of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 (ICRA), 740 ILCS 23/5, and by repeatedly selecting African American students to bear the costs of the closings, the defendants have unlawfully used ‘criteria and methods of administration’ that have the ‘effect’ of subjecting the plaintiffs’ children and other African American children represented by the plaintiff parents to discrimination because of race. In conducting closings since 2001, the defendants have used various shifting criteria that they allege to be race neutral but that always have the effect of singling out poor and marginalized African American children to bear the educational and human costs of the closings. 

“For the 72 schools that defendants have closed to date, African American children make up more than 90 percent of the displaced children; and in currently proposed closings, they make up more than 80 percent of the displaced children.  Yet African American children constitute only 42 percent of the children in the public schools.

“The impact on African American children is in stark contrast to the impact on white children – who have been almost universally insulated from the negative educational consequences of school closings.  The 54 schools selected by the CEO for closing have a combined enrollment of 125 white students out of a total enrollment of 16,059 students – less than one percent.

“Since the Board began closing schools in 2001, it has been in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act, according to the parents. Of the 72 schools the Board has closed to date, more than 90 percent of the displaced children are Black.  In the latest closing proposal, 88 percent of the children in the closing schools are African-American, yet Black children make up only 42 percent of the students in the Chicago public schools…

Randall D. Schmidt

Clinic Files Suit on Behalf of Parents of Children Impacted by CPS Closings

Special Needs students at shuttered Trumbull file federal law suit against CPS

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