Judge allows CPS to continue school closing plan

Tribune reporter

The legal effort to derail Chicago Public Schools’ plan to shut down scores of schools came to a likely end Thursday when a federal judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction sought by parents of students affected by the closings.

U.S. District Judge John Lee’s ruling affected wo lawsuits filed by parents and backed by the Chicago Teachers Union that alleged the closings disproportionately hurt special education students and African American students. CPS is closing 49 elementary schools and a high school program.

Lee earlier this week denied class-action status to the plaintiffs. For that reason, the injunction ruling Thursday affected only the five schools attended by the plaintiffs’ children.

CPS schools open Aug. 26.

In his ruling, Lee said the plaintiffs failed to prove the children would suffer academically since they would be attending schools deemed to be higher performing by CPS in the fall. He also said they failed to prove children would be unsafe as they walked through different neighborhoods, nothing that in all but one case the children of the plaintiffs would receive busing.

Thomas Geoghegan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he will have to take a closer look at the judge’s lengthy ruling before determining next steps.

“We’re disappointed in the outcome, and we’ll be reviewing it,” he said.

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the ruling “supports our belief that every child in every neighborhood throughout the district deserves access to a high-quality education that prepares them for college, career and life.”

Earlier this week, another federal judge denied a request for an emergency injunction seeking to stop the closure of Trumbull Elementary, a North Side school with a large special needs population. Another lawsuit filed by the CTU in Cook County Circuit Court that sought to stop 10 of the school closings was also unsuccessful.

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