Illinois: Chicago Schools Accused of Racial Bias

December 27, 2012| By Jennifer Delgado, Chicago Tribune reporter
Three Chicago Public Schools teachers who lost their jobs this year said in a lawsuit that the district’s process for “turnaround” schools is racially discriminatory because it targets West and South side campuses with a higher percentage of African-American teachers and staff.
The teachers, Donald L. Garrett Jr., Robert Green and Vivonell Brown Jr., are joined in the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Chicago Teachers Union. The lawsuit asks for class-action status, saying the district discriminates against African-American teachers and paraprofessionals when it selects schools for “turnaround” based on performance, “resulting in the termination of all employees of the schools.”

The lawsuit said the percentage of African-Americans teaching in the district has declined from about 41 percent in 2000 to about 29 percent in 2011. That corresponds with the district’s “intentional actions, policies and practices to phase out, close, combine or reconstitute purportedly poor-performing schools,” the lawsuit said.
In February, the district designated 10 schools as “turnaround” and later fired 347 tenured teachers from those schools, along with staff, the lawsuit said.
CPS declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, saying it hadn’t yet been served.
“We have an obligation to expand high-quality school options to all families (and) children in every neighborhood, and turnarounds is just one tool that allows us to provide those options,” said Marielle Sainvilus, a CPS spokeswoman.
Two of the teachers named in the suit have not been able to find jobs at CPS since, while one has been rehired at another school in the district, the lawsuit said.
The suit comes as the district grapples with the issue of potential school closings as well as turnarounds.

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