Parents Allege Civil Rights Violations at Two Chicago Schools

Two public schools on Chicago’s South Side, where physical education is only available as an online class, have come under scrutiny by the US Department of Education over alleged discrimination, writes Joseph Erbentraut for the Huffington Post.

Students and parents at Dyett High and Mollison Elementary, two majority African-American public schools, have alleged that Title VI civil rights violations have occurred causing their families to “endure an education that is separate and unequal”.

In a press release from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, this amounts to a call for a federal probe into the conditions at these schools.

The coalition says that this probe is “a major first step” toward community activists’ goal to stop the closure of the two schools, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.  Jeanette Wilson, a senior advisor to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said:

“The fact that they are going to look into it at all says that some of the practices that have been accepted as normal and appropriate are now being questioned.”

The issue involves the fact that students at the two schools are taking art, gym, music, and Spanish classes online.  Also, because of budget cuts, students have not been offered advanced placement or honors classes.  Students at Mollison deal daily with overcrowding and underfunding since nearby schools have been closed due to the mass closing of 50 schools under the direction of Mayor Rahm Emanual’s school board in 2013.

“These students deserve equal and adequate protection under the law,” Jackson said last month, according to website DNAinfo. “We deserve an equal playing field for our children, too.”

There are currently civil rights complaints being investigated by the Department of Education in New Orleans and Newark.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was put in place to enforce the constitutional rights to vote, to have non-discrimination in public accommodations, to allow the Attorney General to bring suit against those who deny constitutional  rights in public facilities, public education, and federally assisted programs, and to establish a Commission on Civil Rights and a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity.

The complaint was filed by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization of Chicago and the gist of the suit is that 60 years after the the US Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education these two schools are still separate and unequal, reports Randi Belisomo for WGN.  In fact, say many education and civil rights activists, these schools were “set up” by Chicago Public Schools.  The activist went out on an “accountability tour” visiting the offices of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois), Alderman Will Burns and Alderman Pat Dowell, and several state lawmakers to garner their support.

An article in the Hyde Park Herald, written by Daschell M. Phillips, reports that the US Department of Education has opened a federal investigation into the Title VI Civil Rights violations at Dyett High School.  At a press conference on Tuesday, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School and Rainbow Push announced their next steps.

“This is an encouraging day,” said Jitu Brown, education organizer at KOCO and national director of The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett.

Jadine Johnson, staff attorney for the campaign of quality education at the Washington, D.C. – based Advancement Project, said these investigations can take time, but it is possible it could be complete in a year.  If the complaint is found to be valid, a settlement with CPS will be attempted.

If an agreement cannot be reached at that level, the suit will be deferred to the US Department of Justice.  Meantime, the coalition plans to continue its campaign to save Dyett.