A group of local school council members filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Chicago Board of Education in an attempt to keep their schools from being closed or completely restaffed by the district.
The 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who serve on local school councils at nine different Chicago Public Schools, claim the district has violated Illinois school code by failing to give the local school councils, or LSCs, resources and specific action plans to fix their failing schools before turning to drastic overhauls or closure.
Jitu Brown is on the local school council at Dyett High School, slated to be phased out. He said in well-to-do communities, “school boards jump when the residents say jump. This school board (turns) a deaf ear.”
Brown and other community members came up with a plan to improve their neighborhood schools; he says the district has ignored it.
“To assume that we don’t have good ideas to fix our schools is racist,” Brown told reporters in the lobby of Chicago Public Schools headquarters Thursday morning. “To ignore the voices of people that simply want to make their schools better is racist, and I dare say evil.”
The lawsuit also alleges that school closures violate an Illinois civil rights law, since “the African American plaintiff LSC members will be ousted from offices to which they are elected and will lose their statutory responsibilities to continue governing the schools ….”
Local school councils—like mini-school boards—are disbanded when schools close and are turned into advisory councils when schools are totally restaffed under "turnaround." The majority of school closures and turnarounds serve predominantly African-American students.
In a written statement, Chicago Public Schools cited high dropout rates and lagging achievement by African-American students.
“Students in our lowest performing schools deserve better," the statement reads. "They deserve an opportunity to access a high quality education and a chance at academic success. That’s what we intend to give them. It would be an injustice for us to sit by and do absolutely nothing.”
The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop the school board from voting on the school closures and turnarounds Feb. 22, or if the board does vote, to block the schools from being closed.
The plaintiffs and their supporters got into a shouting match when a dueling press conference was called by pastors, a number of whom have supported school closings.
Not all pastors in the group said they supported closing schools.