A lawsuit scheduled Friday for federal court will determine whether the District can close 15 public schools.
The case argues that D.C. Public Schools' plan to close 13 schools in June and two more a year later disproportionately affects minorities, students with disabilities and students from low-income families, therefore violating D.C. and federal laws preventing discrimination. The suit was filed by three parents of children whose schools are slated to close -- including two parents of children receiving special education services -- and two Advisory Neighborhood commissioners who represent neighborhoods containing schools slated to close.
Of the more than 3,000 students affected by the school closings, 93.7 percent are black, and only two -- 0.1 percent -- are white, according to data provided by Mary Levy, who formerly researched schools issues for the D.C. Council, and enclosed in the court documents. By comparison, 9.2 percent of DCPS students are white. The data also shows that 96.6 percent of students affected by the plan are from low-income families, compared with the 75.4 percent of students systemwide. Almost 28 percent receive special education services, compared with 14.2 percent across DCPS.
"Many of the students least equipped to handle the dislocation of school closings will bear all of the academic and social burdens associated with them," the group wrote in a memo filed last week.
The group has asked the court to prevent the school system from closing all 15 schools, and Friday's hearing will determine whether the closings will be put on hold while the case progresses.
However, attorneys for the District say the group bringing the suit doesn't have the authority to challenge the closing of all the schools. At best, they can challenge the decision to close the three schools their children attend, Ferebee-Hope Elementary, MacFarland Middle and Sharpe Health.
In addition, the racial makeup of the closing schools should be irrelevant, they said. An effort largely to save money on building maintenance, the plan closes "generally those [schools] that are under-enrolled, are in areas with less anticipated student growth, and have not been recently renovated," D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan wrote in the court documents.