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Federal court hearings begin on lawsuits challenging Chicago school closings

Lawsuits challenging to Chicago Board of Education's May 22 decision to close 49 of the city's real public schools begin being heard in the U.S. federal court building in Chicago on July 16, 2013. A Chicago Teachers Union press release about the lawsuits was issued early on the morning of July 16 (see below). Substance reporters will also be covering the lawsuits.

Injunction hearing begins today for federal lawsuits filed by Chicago parents seeking to halt school closings. Suit charges Chicago Public Schools, Board of Education and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett with racial, disabilities violations of federal law.

CHICAGO—A four-day injunction hearing begins Tuesday morning for two class action lawsuits filed against CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the Chicago Board of Education by parents of CPS students. The suits charge the Board and Byrd-Bennett with race discrimination and endangering the lives and development of students—in particular, students living with disabilities. Parents seek an injunction against all proposed school closings by CPS for violations of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Illinois Civil Rights Act (ICRA).

The first suit charges the Board and Byrd-Bennett with violating Title II of the ADA in their proposal to close 50 elementary schools. Parents fear that by holding off the closing decisions to the eleventh hour and rushing children into new and unfamiliar schools without adequate counseling and support services, the Board will inflict harm and present severe obstacles to growth for the in excess of 5,000 children in CPS special education programs in the affected schools. They are asking the federal court for an injunction to delay school closings for a period of one year.

The second suit charges the Board and Byrd-Bennett 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.

“By uprooting children with disabilities, CPS will severely inhibit their growth and set them back two years in their development,” said CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle, a former special education teacher who will testify at the hearing. “They also lose the support of the clinicians in these closed schools—the people who have been like family to them for much of their lives.”

WHO: Chicago Public Schools parents

WHAT: Injunction hearing to stop school closings

WHEN: Starts at 10 a.m., Tuesday, July 16 through Friday, July 19, 2013

WHERE: Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn, Courtroom 1225

The litigation is being handled by Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan, Ltd., Robin Potter & Associates, P.C., and the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com.



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