A mural depicts a student entering the closed Alexander Wilson Elementary School in West Philadelphia. Across the nation, public schools have suffered over the past few years as the recession prompted cuts in state education funding and losses in property tax revenues (Reuters/Tom Mihalek).
A federal judge has dismissed most of a lawsuit seeking to stop the closure of fifteen DC public schools, but is allowing several of the plaintiffs’ civil rights claims to move forward, The Washington Post reports.
In March, activists with the community group Empower D.C. filed the lawsuit in March as part of an effort to stop thirteen of the schools from being closed in June. The activists argue the school closures violate a number of local and federal laws, including civil rights provisions because the closures disproportionately affect black, Hispanic and disabled children.
Of the 2,700 students who will be impacted by the closings, just two (less than 0.01 percent) are white, even though white students account for 9 percent of the overall District of Columbia public school student population, according to district budget expert Mary Levy.
Conversely, African-Americans make up 93 percent of those affected despite making up just 72 percent of the district student body.
But Judge James E. Boasberg appeared skeptical of the activists’ position, saying that their civil rights arguments “may ultimately be too slender a reed” on which to hang their case. However, under the law, he said they deserve time to gather and present information before he issues a final ruling.
Despite Boasberg dismissing most of the lawsuit, Empower D.C. activists say they’re pleased with the ruling.
“We’re happy that we can still litigate on some of the counts around discrimination,” said Daniel del Pielago, an organizer for the group, to The Washington Post. “We’re still in the game.”
Meanwhile, Philadelphia officials are calling for a review of school budgets cuts that they believe might have contributed to the death of a sixth-grader.