News & Media

Education Justice Project Addressing Inequity in DC Schools

There remains a crisis in inequality in education in the District and across the nation. Far too often, the quality of education students receive depends on the color of their skin, the income of their family, the language they speak, the neighborhood in which they live, and whether they have a disability. Children of color, those with disabilities, and English language learners are much more frequently denied the opportunity to thrive and achieve their aspirations. Seventy-one percent of the District’s African-American students attend schools that are 99 to 100% Black, 77% of all DC public school students are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program, and test score gaps between White students and students of color persist.

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Parent Empowerment in Action: Seaton Elementary School’s Multicultural Night

Students from many backgrounds learn and grow together at Seaton Elementary School, in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest DC. The student body is racially diverse and includes a broad range of cultures. Economically, most students are members of working and low-income families. Seaton parents find strength in their diversity and it enriches the school.

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Committee Staff Attorney Christine Dinan Submits Testimony to the DC Council in Support of the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015

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The Committee Joins Nine Civil Rights Groups in Urging the Supreme Court to Reform How Compensation is Awarded for Victims of Prison Abuse

Prisoners too often suffer horrific abuses. Charles Murphy was left with a broken eye socket after correctional officer Robert Smith struck him in the eye, choked him and threw him into the metal toilet in his cell. Murphy was handcuffed during the attack. A nurse found him in his cell, stripped of his clothing. His eyesight was permanently damaged.

We are urging the Supreme Court that, when victims are subjected to this level of torture, a 1996 federal law does not require judges to reduce jury awards of victim compensation in such cases by 25%.

Read the full brief here...

Court Holds that DC Council has Authority to Address Funding Inequities in Education

The quality of an education that District of Columbia students receive still depends far too much on the neighborhood in which they live, the income of their family, the color of their skin and whether they have a disability. Measures to address this inequity is driven, in part, by the ability of the District to allocate funding for neighborhood public schools. Several charter schools brought litigation to limit the District’s ability to invest in the lowest performing schools and sought a ruling that would enrich private educational entities over the public system. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee worked with a coalition of groups to participate in this litigation and to protect the District’s ability to create high quality schools for every student. 

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Staff Spotlight: Jhonna Turner

Jhonna Turner, the Committee’s Parent Engagement Program Coordinator, spends her days working with parents to support their efforts to fight for justice and education equity for all District students. The Parent Empowerment Program (PEP) is part of the Committee’s focus on creating an equal opportunity for an education for all students. We believe that supporting each student’s civil right to a high-quality education throughout the city means helping parents and students exercise their power. (Apply here for a matching $1,000 grant if you’re a parent at a DCPS Title 1 school.)

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Coalition Files Lawsuit against Federal Government to Keep DACA in Place

LANGLEY PARK, MD - Today, on the deadline for the last DACA renewal applications to be received by immigration, CASA and a legal team that includes Arnold & Porter, Kaye Scholer, LLP, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and the Civil Rights Clinic of the Howard University School of Law, announced they are suing the federal government over the elimination of the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has given work status to more 800,000 immigrants who came to the United States as minors. The action is filed on behalf of organizations from Maryland, California, Washington, Michigan, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Arizona & Connecticut, as well as the national network of providers.

The coalition’s lawsuit argues that the government did not follow proper procedures in ending the program and was instead motivated by an unconstitutional racial animus against Mexican and Central American DACA beneficiaries.  The suit seeks to reinstate DACA and protect the privacy of individuals who were induced to submit sensitive personal information to immigration officials when they applied.

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Wiley Rein and Washington Lawyers’ Committee File Fifth Amendment Complaint on Behalf of Immigrants Detained in Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center

WASHINGTON, DC - Using the pseudonym John Doe, an unaccompanied immigrant minor who is confined to the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center filed a lawsuit today on behalf of himself and other detained immigrant children challenging the conditions in the Center. The complaint, filed by Wiley Rein LLP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC), describes the systemic and routine denial of necessary mental health care, racial and national origin discrimination by staff, excessive force, and the extreme and inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the lawsuit seeks to remedy a range of violations of the United States Constitution and seeks an injunction from the federal court to reform the practices at the Center.

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Jonathan Smith Submits Written Testimony in Support of Human Rights Amendment Act of 2017

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The Committee Launches its Parent Empowerment Program Application

Our overall goal is to engage parents by way of empowerment. We believe a part of building equity in education begins when all voices are heard and progress is being made. Empowering parents to have a voice in their child’s education, and bring change to their school community, we believe, is a step towards closing the resource and opportunity gap; which will begin the process of closing the achievement gap.

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