Last week on January 29, 2013, activists arrived in Washington, DC for what has been described as a "Journey for Justice." Seventeen cities were represented including: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, District of Columbia, Detroit, Eupora- (Miss), Hartford, Kansas City- (Mo.), Newark, New York, L.A., New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia and Witchita, Ks. Among their chief demands is a call to the US Department of Education's civil rights office to end top down discriminatory closings of public schools, phase outs and turn-arounds nationally and the sabotage and disinvestment of public schools.
In an AP article titled “SchoolTurn-arounds Prompt Community Backlash”, written by Christina Hoag on Feb. 5, 2013 - “The U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) civil rights office has opened investigations into 33 complaints from parents and community members, representing 29 districts ranging from big city systems such as Chicago, Detroit and Washington, DC to smaller cities… said spokesman Daren Briscoe.” Complaints allege that the criteria and methods used in deciding school closings and turn-arounds are discriminatory.
According to a Huffington Post article, members of the Obama administration were present for the hearings. US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan remained for 45 minutes despite the chants of protesters demanding to know where Mr. Duncan was once he exited the hearings. Also Obama Education Advisor, Roberto Rodriguez was present.
The overarching theme of the hearings from students and parents included testimony on how the closing of minority neighborhoods displaced students of color without a neighborhood school and destabilized entire communities.
Other demands of Journey for Justice include the implementation of a sustainable community driven school improvement process as national policy. Daniel del Pielago, Education Organizer of EmpowerDC states that moving forward - “Communities are planning national days of action and pushing for a meeting with President Obama on this issue. This movement has allowed us to see that we (individual cities) are not in this fight alone and that we will use People Power to continue to organize to bring an end to unjust/discriminatory school closures.”