By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The U.S. Department of Education opened a federal investigation into alleged Title VI civil rights violations at Dyett High School. The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School and Rainbow Push held a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 12, to announce their next steps in preserving and revitalizing the school.
In 2011, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., would be closed by 2015 through a phase out process. As the student population shrunk, resources such as teachers, honors courses and even building space were taken away. The remaining students did not have access to advanced placement courses; they have to take classes such as gym, languages and music online and they are forced to enter and exit through the back door of the school. The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School and Rainbow Push see this as a violation of civil rights. The shrinking of Dyett has also attracted the attention of Hyde Park education advocates and groups.
In 2012, KOCO filed a civil rights complaint against CPS and received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education on Aug. 6 stating that it determined the complaint was worthy of investigation.
“This is an encouraging day,” said Jitu Brown, education organizer at KOCO and national director of The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett.
Brown said the organizations are glad that the department is looking into their complaint and “We encourage them to do a thorough investigation.”
Jadine Johnson, staff attorney for the campaign of quality education at the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project, said that investigations such as this one are usually extensive but may conclude within a year.
Johnson said once the letter was sent to KOCO the investigation began. She said a letter would also be sent to CPS and the U.S. Department of Education would go on a fact-finding mission by requesting documents and interviewing both CPS officials and community members.
“If they determine that the complaint is valid they will try to reach a settlement with CPS,” Johnson said. “If CPS refuses to settle then they will defer the complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice.”
Although the coalition is grateful that the U.S. Department of Education is investigating the case, they plan to continue to move forward with their own campaign to save Dyett.
The coalition along with members from its new partner organization Rainbow Push went on an “accountability tour,” after the press conference Tuesday, to visit the offices of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1); state Sens. Kwame Raoul (D-13) and Mattie Hunter (D-3), state Reps. Christian Mitchell (D-26), Ken Dunkin (D-5) and Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and Alds. Will Burns (4th) and Pat Dowell (3rd) seeking their support of its plan to revitalize Dyett with its Global Leadership and Green Technology High School plan.
The groups are also inviting CPS, parents and community members to the first of a series of meetings they plan to hold in order to develop a strategy to implement the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology plan and welcome a new freshman class into the school on Sept. 15, 2015. The meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 at Dyett.