Chicago Teachers Union files federal lawsuit on behalf of Sarah Chambers, 'special ed whistleblower'...

The Chicago Teachers Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of teacher Sarah Chambers, who was fired by Chicago Public Schools following her years of advocacy on behalf of special education students and for students who wanted to opt out of standardized testing. The CTU press release about the lawsuit is below:

CTU files federal lawsuit against Board of Ed in defense of member targeted for special education activism


July 7, 2017 312-329-6235, ronniereese<>

CHICAGO-The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today will hold a press conference to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked Chicago Board of Education for retaliation against Saucedo Elementary School teacher Sarah Chambers for her First Amendment-protected criticisms of its deficient services to special education students. The Board also broke the Illinois Whistleblower Act when it fired Chambers for blowing the whistle on its violations of laws protecting special education students.

Finally, the suit contends that the Board's actions are unlawful as a wrongful discharge because all employees in Illinois are protected from retaliations when they point out violations of the law.

"The Board's reasons for firing Ms. Chambers are pretexts to hide its true, retaliatory motive," said attorney Josiah Groff. "We look forward to proving this in court."


CTU President Karen Lewis, Saucedo Elementary School teacher Sarah Chambers, attorney Josiah Groff, special education advocate and Access Living Education Policy Analyst Rod Estvan, former Saucedo Elementary School parent Angie Chavero.


Press conference to announce filing of federal lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education


Friday, July 7, 2017, at 11:00 a.m.


Chicago Teachers Union Center

1901 W. Carroll Ave.

WHY: The CTU is filing this suit to stop attacks on member leaders who are paying the ultimate price for standing up for Chicago's most vulnerable students. For years now, key activists have been targeted by the Board for speaking out, standing up and demanding justice for special education students, English Language Learners, and students who need and deserve trauma support and services that only school nurses, librarians, counselors, social workers and psychologists can provide. In this case, longtime activist Sarah Chambers was targeted by administration for being a strong student advocate. This is a case to defend the integrity of the school district and ensure that the blatant retaliation experienced by one member cannot be used against all.


A fired Chicago Public Schools teacher filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday morning alleging the city’s appointed school board attempted to silence her efforts to speak out against the district’s violations of state and federal laws that protect students with special needs.

In the suit, Sarah Chambers, a former special education teacher at Saucedo Scholastic Academy, 2850 W. 24th Blvd., claims the Chicago Board of Education violated both her First Amendment rights and the Illinois Whistleblower Act by firing her as she attempted to expose the violations.

During her tenure, which stretched from May of 2009 through her dismissal in May, Chambers was a vocal advocate for special education students, the suit claims.

She voiced complaints at various board meetings and to board members about the need for increased special education services, noting they were below the minimum legal threshold, the suit claims. She also served as the co-chair of the Special Education Task Force, a coalition dedicated to fighting for the rights of special education students.

“CPS and Rahm Emanuel don’t want anyone challenging these policies that save money off the backs of our special education students,” Chambers said at press conference Friday at the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters, 1901 W. Carroll Ave. “That’s why they’re going after me, because I have been challenging these destructive policies.”

Chambers’ continued advocacy for special needs students “made her into a target for the board,” the suit claims.

Chambers’ dismissal hinges on her approach to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam. On March 8, the first day the test was being administered, Chambers was called into the office of Virginia Hiltz, Saucedo’s principal, the suit claims.

During the meeting, Hiltz brought up a lesson Chambers had given students about the merits of the PARCC test as an example of a subject being publicly debated, the suit claims. Hiltz told Chambers she “should try to find a more balanced argument for both sides.”

The following day, the school’s vice principal, Nancy Quintana, and other administrators told students the PARCC test was mandatory, threatening punishment if they didn’t take it, the suit claims. Quintana also claimed the test would be used to determine students’ high school placement.

Students have the right to refuse to take the PARCC, but some students reported problems when trying to opt out, the Sun-Times reported earlier this year.

Chambers visited the school’s eighth grade classrooms that same day, explaining to students they had been given incorrect information, the suit claims. She told students the Northwest Evaluation Association standardized test was actually used for high school admissions.

She was officially reprimanded for interfering with the test along with two other teachers, the suit claims. However, the other two teachers were not fired or disciplined further.

Chambers then received an email April 6 telling her she was suspended and banned from all CPS property, the suit claims. During her suspension, students and others who support Chambers organized a trip to the April 26 school board meeting, the suit claims. Chambers protested outside the meeting, but did not travel with students or attend the meeting.

On May 5, Chambers received a dismissal letter from the board that listed a variety of charges, including giving a biased presentation on the PARCC exam, telling students they were being lied to about the exam and hatching a “scheme” to bring students to the board meeting.

Chambers’ suit says the claims are “simply false.”

“It’s a trumped-up charge,” CTU President Karen Lewis said at Friday’s press conference.

CPS responded to the lawsuit, saying in a written statement that Chambers took “serious and grave actions that did not put students’ interests first.”

The district says Chambers violated directives from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Chicago Board of Education to administer the PARCC test; and the district says Chambers and other individuals working on her behalf removed students from the school to advocate for her without following procedures, including chaperone background checks and parental consent to transport minors.


July 8, 2017 at 11:53 AM

By: Jean Schwab


CPS has a problem with teachers that speak out about tests and CPS misinformation. I'm glad that CTU is filing suit. I hope they will do that for everyone in Sarah's situation.

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