By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
MANHATTAN — The city's Department of Education broke the law when it voted to close five public schools in Manhattan, a federal judge has ruled.
The decision by a state Supreme Court judge on Friday stated that the DOE trivialized "the whole notion of community involvement in decisions regarding the closing or phasing out of schools" when it voted earlier this year to shutter 19 school across the city.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers accusing the DOE of failing to provide hard copies of impact statements related to the closings and failing to give enough notice for public hearings on the issue, ABC 7 reported.
The decision also described the impact statements as written in “boilerplate fashion” and having a “lack of meaningful detail regarding the impact on students on the proposed closures,” according to the decision by Justice Joan B. Lobis.
The five schools in Manhattan originally slated for closure were Central’s Harlem’s Academy of Collaborative Education, East Harlem’s Academy of Environmental Science, the Harlem Choir Academy, East Harlem’s KAPPA II school, and Murray Hill’s Norman Thomas High School.
The DOE’s Panel for Education Policy voted to close the schools for poor performance following a contentious eight-hour hearing in January.
The DOE's legal team responded by saying it would immediately seek an appeal to the ruling.
"We are disappointed by today’s ruling, which, unless it is reversed, requires the Department of Education to keep open schools that are failing our children," said Michael A. Cardozo, an attorney for the DOE.
"Contrary to the ruling, we believe that the Department of Education complied with the notice and public hearing requirements in the new law. The Court did not take into account the extra efforts made by the Department to supply the relevant facts and to keep all interested parties informed of the process."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called the court's decision “a wakeup call” for the DOE.
“The message could not be more clear: When DOE breaks the law by paying lip service to parental involvement but fails to follow through, the system breaks down and our children end up being the losers,” Stringer said in a statement.
“My hope is that this court ruling succeeds in forcing the changes that so far have not been accomplished through legislation.”