On January 29th 2013, the Department of Education, Civil Rights Division held a Hearing on School Closures, Turnarounds, Phase-Outs and Co-Locations. The Journey for Justice Alliance worked diligently for near a year to bring this momentous occasion about. Days prior to the actual Hearing, those associated with the Alliance met with members of Congress and or their Legislative Assistants in an attempt to garner greater support for our citizens, our communities, for equal and equitable education, as well as the Sustainable School Transformation Plan.
Filmmaker Rachel S. Dickson documented the doings for days before the Hearing and at the actual event. Please view and consider the circumstances. Ask yourself these questions –
- What must it be like to watch your neighborhood public schools close?
- what will occur when children are forced to cross gang lines only to attend a lower performing school?
- How would you feel if the nation and the city did not invest in your community schools?
- What of your child…would your heart bleed knowing that your son or daughter does not have the opportunities afforded to his or her peers in affluent neighborhoods?
- What might you do?
- Would you consider that in time, you too might be affected by policies that privatize America’s public schools?
The Civil Rights Impact of School Closings, Turnarounds, Phase-outs and Co-locations inquiry focuses on “The ways in which these programs devastate communities of color will be studied at length.”
The inquiry held on January 29th grew out of an alliance of grassroots Community, Youth and Parent driven organizations who had successfully petitioned the Department of Education in November 2012. The ask was to convene this hearing. Working with Russlyn Ali, former Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Tim Tuten, Director of Community Partnerships for the U.S. Department of Education, ultimately, the inquiry was scheduled.
This alliance of parents and community leaders has representation from the cities of Chicago, New Orleans, Oakland, Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Dallas, Atlanta, District of Columbia, Detroit, Philadelphia, Wichita, Newark, Wilmington, Delaware, Kansas City and Eureka Mississippi
The hearing included testimony of Parents, Students, Educators Social Support Workers, Community members and Community Leaders. The People addressed the adverse and detrimental effects of School Closings, turnarounds, co-locations and phase-outs on the black and brown students attending the effected schools. Since the Hearing, a letter writing campaign has been ongoing.
The parents, students and community members in the alliance strongly stated their reasonable requests for…
- An immediate National Moratorium on all School Closings, Turnarounds, Phase-outs and Co-locations while the inequity, discrimination, and community desultory impact of these actions is investigated and documented.
- A Process established for Community Driven School Improvement using the Sustainable School Transformation methodology developed by Communities For Excellent Public Schools in July 2010 http://bit.ly/YCzQEC
- A Civil Rights Investigation into the Impact of School Closings, Turnarounds, Phase-Outs and Co-Locations
- A meeting with President Obama
Neighborhood Schools provide anchors to the community. Our schools are safe havens for the students and trusted safety zones by the parents. They provide continuity and depth to under resourced poverty afflicted urban regions. Closings lead to students traveling long distances out of their homes areas. Often this unnecessary travel leads to violent encounters when children must cross gang lines to attend their new assigned school.
The fabric of the neighborhood becomes unraveled when the thread of continuity and stability, the local public school, is closed or turned around. The teachers and staff no longer are there to care for the babies they cherished and nurtured for decades.
In 1995 45% of the teachers in these schools were black. Mostly Black women who were stalwarts of the city regions they served. Today only 25% of the teachers serving in CPS are Black. This system of destabilizing, replacing and relocating leads to the reduction of functional culturally sensitive public education.
In Chicago for example Schools Closings disproportionately affect African American students: More than 42,000 students have been directly impacted by PS School Actions since 2001. 88% of the students affected are black.
Schools that are over 99% students of Color (“Apartheid Schools”) have been the primary target of CPS School Actions-representing over 80% of the affected schools. Black communities have been hit the hardest- three out of every four affected schools were economically poor and intensely segregated African American schools.
CPS replaces neighborhood schools with dubious alternatives. Over 100 neighborhood schools have been subject to School Actions since 2001. Over that same period, CPS has opened or expanded over 100 charter or contract school campuses, multiple lottery-based or selective enrollment schools, and twenty-eight turnaround schools. Despite the illusion of “choice” students affected by school actions have most often landed in schools that struggle as much as their previous school.
In short CPS, charter schools, and private managers continue to fail our students of poverty and color and their neighborhoods.
The Journey for Justice 2 Coalition asks all concerned citizens to join us in advocating for the human and civil rights of the children in the 18 cites we represent. We thank you for your care, consideration, and involvement.
Journey For Justice 2014 Files a Civil Rights Complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice
- Report: Death By A Thousand Cuts: Racism, School Closures, and Public School Sabotage [pdf]
Please ponder the Resources – The Principles and Plan That Unite Us! Perhaps, write a letter. Your voice matters! If our children are to receive an equal and equitable education we must Reclaim Our Schools.
Video Production by Rachel S. Dickson. Rachel Dickson is a Freelance Filmmaker, Journalist, Translator, And Interpreter (Spanish-English.) Ms Dickson is based in Chicago (and sometimes Colombia).