BLACK VOICES

Feds Investigating Claim Of Civil Rights Violations In Schools On Chicago's South Side

08/12/2014 06:47 pm ET | Updated Aug 12, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into alleged discrimination taking place at two public schools located on Chicago's South Side where course offerings have been slashed to the point where physical education is only available as an online class.

Students and parents at the two majority African-American public schools -- Dyett High and Mollison Elementary -- allege Title VI civil rights violations have taken place and that their families have been forced to "endure an education that is separate and unequal," according to a press release from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a participant in the community's call for a federal probe of conditions at the schools.

Speaking at a Tuesday press conference, Jeanette Wilson, a senior advisor to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, described the education department's pending probe as "a major first step" toward community activists' goal to stop the closure of the two schools, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

"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," Wilson said, according to the paper.

Community activists have pointed out that students at Dyett have been forced to take their art, gym, music and Spanish classes online, rather than in a traditional classroom setting, and have also not been offered advanced placement or honors classes due to budget cuts.

Students at Mollison have been forced to deal with overcrowding and underfunding due to the closure of other nearby schools in the mass shutdown of 50 schools approved by the Mayor Rahm Emanuel-appointed school board in 2013.

The schools, activists say, were essentially set up by the district to fail.

"The students of Dyett deserve better than this," Dyett student Parrish Brown told HuffPost earlier this year. "We're fighting to keep the school open."

Activists have been pushing back against the planned closure of Dyett in 2015 since the struggling school's phaseout plan was announced in 2012. In May, the community filed a complaint with the education department, and last month, Jackson joined in the push to keep the school open.

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

Activists have also said the closure of Dyett will create what they've dubbed a "school desert" in the South Side neighborhood, due to the absence of any other public high schools nearby, MSNBC previously noted.

While Chicago Public Schools officials have said they have met with the community activists and listened to their proposals for keeping Dyett open, there is currently no plan to change course on the closure.

Following the Tuesday press conference, community activists led an "accountability tour" of the offices of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, a number of state lawmakers and city aldermen in an effort to garner their support for a thorough investigation into the allegations at Dyett and Mollison.

The Department of Education is also currently investigating civil rights complaints at schools in New Orleans and Newark, New Jersey.

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