UN Asked to Examine Chicago School Closings for Human Rights Violations
Activists say closings violate children's human rights to live free from discrimination and violence.
July 24, 2013
Chicago-based human rights advocates have senta letter to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights asking the international body to monitor Chicago’s school closings.
The “letter of allegation” sent Tuesday evening to Geneva, Switzerland, asks U.N. officials to investigate whether the closing of 49 Chicago elementary schools violates children’s human rights.
“The United Nations taking this issue up and giving it serious attention will really bring home to Chicago and the United States that there are violations occurring here of human rights, potentially, not just about a budget crisis,” said Sital Kalantry, the University of Chicago law professor who filed the letter on behalf of the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights.
“(It’s) not just about closing schools to save money, but you need to be concerned about the rights of children when you close schools,” said Kalantry.
The letter argues the closings violate the human right to equality and nondiscrimination by disproportionately affecting African American students. About 40 percent of the district’s students are black, but 80 percent of students impacted by this year’s historic number of school closings are black. The school district has said the closings are driven by population declines in African American neighborhoods.
The letter also argues closings violate children’s right to live free of violence by forcing them to cross gang lines to get to new schools. It says educational quality is threatened by larger class sizes and argues the city “effectively denied people the right to participate in deciding whether or not to close the schools” by ignoring the public’s objections expressed at scores of public hearings.