ANDERSONVILLE — Parents at Lyman Trumbull Elementary School said they are filing a federal lawsuit against the school district alleging that nearly 150 special needs students were discriminated against in the school closing process.
Trumbull LSC member Mark Miller stood outside the closing school Tuesday morning and read a statement composed by the Legal Assistance Foundation, an organization that is helping file the lawsuit — which pro-Trumbull group Friends of Trumbull hinted would include claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"The [Legal Assistance Foundation] is in the process of finalizing a complaint on behalf of some parents and children at Trumbull, including Friends of Trumbull, seeking to halt Trumbull's closing," Miller said. "The complaint will be based in part on CPS' failure to take into account the smaller class sizes required by special education students at Trumbull, which we believe constitutes unlawful discrimination."
The lawsuit should be filed within the week, Miller said, adding that he wishes that "CPS would get off our backs and let us fight for the school and improve the school more."
Miller said the group wants to "focus on making it a better place rather than spending nearly all of our time trying to keep the school open."
Trumbull was one of 49 schools the Chicago Board of Education voted to close in a cost-cutting measure.
In arguing to keep Trumbull open, supporters of the school have said from the start that CPS' formula for closing schools ignored the space needs of disabled students and violated state laws pertaining to special education class sizes. About 37 percent of Trumbull's 400 children are special education students.
CPS plans to spread the students among McPherson and Chappell elementary schools in Ravenswood, and McCutcheon Elementary School in Uptown. Of the three schools, only McPherson is accessible to students with disabilities under the ADA.
Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) spoke out in support of Trumbull at an April community meeting held by CPS, where O'Connor emphasized, like most speakers there, that Trumbull is making use of its space given its high percentage of special education students.
"I think that Trumbull school is not something that fits the model you have chosen to articulate to the public," O'Connor said.
CPS had no immediate comment about the pending lawsuit, which hasn't been finalized yet. But district officials said in a statement that they have worked with Trumbull to assess the students and direct them to schools capable of handling "each student's diverse needs."
Trumbull parent Ali Burke, a local school council member and organizer with Friends of Trumbull, has accused CPS of "discrimination based on ability," saying that special needs students weren't being assigned to Chappell, which is the only academically performing Level 1 school out of the group.
Parents at Trumbull have also been scared about what class sizes at the designated "welcoming schools" would look like and how that would affect children with disabilities.
Maria Galivanes, the mother of a seventh-grade autistic student at Trumbull, said in April that, "For autistic kids, to be in a classroom of 30, they just will become dysfunctional. It's just not possible."
State officials, however, are considering this summer raising class-size limits for special education class rooms.