School closing lawsuit goes to court this week

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UPDATE:A judge has put off until Friday his decision about whether a lawsuit against school closings and turnarounds will be able to proceed.

If it does, the case will be heard on May 30 and 31 rather than on Wednesday, as had previously been planned.

The lawsuit claims that school actions disproportionately affect the district’s African-American students. It was dismissed in mid-March when a judge ruled council members did not have standing to file it, but was re-filed it with changes

Last week, CPS lawyers asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. CPS filed a rebuttal to council members stating that the suit “essentially asks this Court to ignore the unfortunate and undisputed facts that the schools they purport to represent have been failing for many years, and that something has to be done about it.” 

 The district is arguing that the powers to impose school actions were given by the state Legislature, “and their exercise should not be derailed by a handful of individuals who fear change.”

 The district says that only 84 students will have to change schools due to this year’s closings and turnarounds, and in the court papers filed Thursday, slammed school action opponents for “Chicken Little allegations of violence and crossing gang boundaries.”

Price Elementary parent Krista Alston, a plaintiff in the suit, says that she is glad the judge “is taking his time and digeting everything that was presented to him.”

The lawsuit had previously been dismissed, but was re-filed. It claims that CPS cannot close and turn around schools because it did not take adequate steps to help them get off probation, and that school actions have a negative impact on students who a disproportionately minority. CPS, in its response, pointed out the district’s demographics.

“They are trying to say there is no disparate impact because all of our worst-performing schools are disproportionately minority,” says Michael Persoon, an attorney for the parents who are suing to stop school closures and turnarounds. “That’s an unfortunate argument to make.”