WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA 9) --- DC residents spilled out from the District courthouse after listening to lawyers speak on their behalf for a lawsuit filed against school closures. The lawsuit is filed by the community organization, Empower DC.
Attorney Jamie Raskin said the school closures raises the issue of racial discrimination, when the schools proposed to be shut down are in the poorest DC neighborhoods with mostly black and Hispanic students.
Raskin represented the plaintiffs in front of the judge and provided an extensive argument. He is a Constitutional Law professor at American University.
DC Public School system proposes the closure of 15 public schools for the 2013 - 2014 year. The closures would eliminate schools with low enrollment numbers, according to DC education Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
Lawyers representing both DCPS and Empower DC spoke to Judge James Boasberg while the residents filled every seat inside the courtroom.
The proposed school closure would represent the third time DCPS has shut down schools.
"That's on the heel of 23 schools that they closed in 2008. On the heel of 55 schools that have been closed since 1976," said Johnny Barnes, Lead Attorney for the plaintiffs.
Judge Boasberg said he will provide a written opinion within the week before the City Council votes on a budget on May 22.
"We're optimistic because we believe the legal arguments that we made are based in law. Are supported by past decisions of the court at many levels. Are based in the history of American juriprudence and the factual background that gave rise to this lawsuit matches that law. So we're very encouraged," said Barnes.
Studies show shutting down schools would not save money, instead it would cost the school system, according to John Brittain, UDC law professor and part of the legal team for Empower DC.
Shannon Smith is the first plaintiff listed in the lawsuit. She has a child going to public elementary school in Ward 8. She says the potential school closures would impact more than just the students.
"We would pretty much lose a whole community. We have a swimming pool, we have a skating rink...Most of Ward 8 comes and uses our whole school, so we would lose a whole lot," she said.
Sirraya Gant is the PTSA president at Ward 7's H.D. Woodson High School where her son attends 10th grade.
Gant said she met with DC Chancellor Henderson, because Woodson does not have a budget for a STEM program. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is especially designated for Woodson, according to Gant. However, there has not been a budget set for STEM at Woodson.
Gant said this lawsuit is part of the outcome of gentrification within urban cities like the District.
Written/Reported by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA 9 & WUSA9.com