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Group Fighting Closure of 15 D.C. Public Schools Vows To Press On

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A federal judge said that D.C. officials did not discriminate in their plan to close 15 D.C. public schools.
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A federal judge said that D.C. officials did not discriminate in their plan to close 15 D.C. public schools.

The community group Empower D.C., which was behind the effort to keep 15 under enrolled D.C. public schools open, vows to continue their fight, despite a ruling from a federal judge that he will not stop the planned closures. 

In his 31-page ruling, Judge James Boasberg bluntly rejected the plaintiff's civil rights argument that this would adversely affect poor, minority children, calling the claim "hollow."

He wrote that there's  "no evidence whatsoever" of intentional racial discrimination on the part of school officials who are transferring children out of "weaker, more segregated and under enrolled schools." He also rejected the argument that Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs, were not properly informed of the school district's plans. 

Boasberg said the District's rationale to close schools because of under enrollment and put the money saved into improving the remaining schools appears "realistic and sensible." In a statement, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the judge's opinion allows the school district to  move forward. 

But for Jamie Raskin, a professor at American University who argued the case for the plaintiffs, the case could still go on. He says many communities across the country are facing similar school closings. 

"Federal courts historically have been extremely conservative institutions, and we know change will come slowly here. But the grievances of minority communities have got to be heard," he said.

In his ruling, Boasberg acknowledged "few topics incite our passions more than the education of our children." And in that respect, he might be prophetic. Parisa Norouzi with Empower D.C., for one, says this is far from over.

"We may be exploring direct action, we may be exploring further legal actions. But one thing everyone knows, Empower D.C. does not back down from a big fight."

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