Federal judge will decide next week on DC school closings - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Federal judge will decide next week on DC school closings

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WASHINGTON -

A federal judge says he will issue a ruling by next week on a request to stop the planned closure of 15 D.C. Public School buildings.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that city and school officials failed to follow procedural guidelines in the school closure process and that the plan articulated by Chancellor Kaya Henderson will disproportionately affect minority students and students with disabilities.

D.C. is a majority black city, and so is its school system. Henderson, an African-American herself, has unveiled a plan that targets schools with dwindling enrollments. Most of those schools happen to be in the city's poorest neighborhoods -- areas with very high concentrations of minority students. For years, parents in those neighborhoods have been switching their children to city-supported charter schools, causing, in part, the enrollment decline in the city's regular public schools.

Henderson believes remaining schools will be able to offer better educational programing for students.

With a note of skepticism in his voice, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg asked the plaintiffs' attorneys, "Do you really think Chancellor Henderson is discriminating against black and Hispanic kids?"

"Yes, yes," supporters of the lawsuit started whispering and then saying aloud in the packed rows of the courtroom. The judge again directed his question at the attorneys and again the spectators answered aloud, "Yes, yes!"

At that point the judge addressed the spectators, admonishing them with, "This is not a council hearing. This is a courtroom."

The spectators then remained quiet as the attorneys responded with the argument that, even if the intent is not to discriminate, if the effect is discrimination, the action would be in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Before ending the hearing, Judge Boasberg congratulated the 80-or-so spectators in his courtroom, saying their presence during the late-morning hearing demonstrated their concern about the issue. The judge promised to expedite his decision, promising that his written opinion on the request for an injunction would be issued by next week.


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