A Cook County judge Friday threw out a lawsuit by a group of Local School Council members regarding school actions by the Chicago Public Schools. But the narrow ruling invites further legal challenge. The plaintiffs will now make an amended complaint before March 24, and also plan to take federal action against the Chicago Board of Education.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hyman sided with the Chicago Board of Education’s contention that Local School Councils – the elected teachers, parents and community reps of each CPS school – may not have legal standing to represent the 7,500 students impacted by the Board’s February 24 decision to shut down or “turnaround” 17 schools.
Hyman, though, called the ruling “narrow” as well as “dry, cold, removed from the greater flow of life,” and invited the plaintiffs to make the amended complaint.
“We have to redraft the complaint,” says plaintiff attorney Thomas Geohegan, a lead attorney for the Chicago Teachers Union. “We are still at a technical, preliminary stage.”
Dyett High School LSC member Jitu Brown – whose status as lead plaintiff gives the case its ‘Brown v. Board of Education’ title – noted that “parents can act on behalf of their child” and suggested that they might recast the case to represent the parents, instead of LSCs, impacted by the school actions.
Brown also noted that the plaintiffs plan to file an additional complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Chicago Public Schools head Jean-Claude Brizard proposed the school closings and turnarounds (in which teachers and staff get replaced, but the school stays open) November 30. The Board of Education unanimously approved each proposal February 24, without considering each one individually.
The Board’s decision came after vocal protest by LSCs. In the lawsuit, LSCs contend that CPS failed to communicate with them about their criteria for school actions. Also, CPS did not precisely prescribe what steps these schools could take to avoid closing or the replacement of staff.
The closure and turnaround of underperforming schools is an annual CPS practice, much to the chagrin of the Chicago Teachers Union and many parents, teachers and community leaders.
However, the first year of Brizard's tenure and Rahm Emanuel's mayorship could coincide with the first prolonged legal challenge to the school actions.
“This year they were far more turnarounds than they have been in previous years so that was probably the impetus for the lawsuit,” says Lorraine Forte, editor-in-chief of Catalyst, a monthly education magazine.
CPS applauded the judge’s decision Friday. “We are pleased with the court’s ruling today, which is a win for the students of Chicago,” CPS said in a statement.
Image: Progress Illinois/Protesters at February 24 Board of Ed. meeting