For those of us who follow the debate over school reform/school closings in the District of Columbia, the story of River Terrace Elementary School is not unfamiliar. In December of 2010, Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson proposed that the school be closed due to under-enrollment. In January, a meeting was held at River Terrace Elementary to discuss the concerns of the community. Residents were angry about the decision to close the school and the lack of input from the community during the decision-making process. As you can see from the video below, many legitimate questions were raised; none of them have been answered.
River Terrace Elementary School is just one of the many Washington, DC public schools closed or threatened with closure since the reign of Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Despite overwhelming community support, River Terrace was shut down. But the tide is turning. Although Rhee and her policies were in favor during the Administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty, the lack of improvement in test scores and the disruption to communities is causing many to think twice about reforming schools by closing them down.
The latest effort to stop DC public school closures is a lawsuit brought by Empower DC against the city to stop the latest round of school closings. The following excerpt from the Empower DC’s complaint explains their argument:
“The 2013-2014 ‘DCPS Consolidation and Reorganization Plan’ will have a startlingly disparate impact on students of color, special education students and students who live in low-income communities; and that disparate impact violates the United States Constitution, the D.C. Human Rights Law and applicable federal laws. There is a striking juxtaposition between how the Plan treats students “East of the Park,” those in predominantly minority, low-income communities, and yet spares students “West of the Park,” those in predominantly caucasian, affluent communities. The same is true with respect to how the Plan treats schools housing special education students. School closures are not immune to judicial scrutiny.”
Empower DC has their first day in court this Friday, May 10, 2013. Join them and the plaintiff’s in the case for a rally on the courthouse steps. Details follow: