UPDATE: NTA Community Files Preliminary Injunction to Halt School Closure

Protesters from the Febuary 2018 March to Rahm's house demanded that no South Side schools be closed. 

Protesters from the Febuary 2018 March to Rahm's house demanded that no South Side schools be closed. 

alt text By Arlana Shikongo, Education and Youth Editor, The Real Chi

On July 31, attorneys from Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the Legal Assistance Foundation filed a preliminary injunction in the circuit court against CPS to halt its plans to close National Teachers' Academy. Last month, parents and activists of the top-performing elementary school in the Near South community formally filed a complaint against Chicago Public Schools following their unprecedented decision to close their Level 1+ performing school, which serves a predominantly black, low-income community.

According to Candace Moore, the lead attorney from CLCCR, this preliminary injunction asks the court to put CPS’ decision on hold as they work through and argue the bigger issues in the case.

“The preliminary injunction is to say that, one: we think we have a really strong case, and two: if you don’t stop now there’s going to be harm that happens that we can’t really undo,” Moore said.

Echoing Moore’s sentiments, Niketa Brar, Executive Director of Chicago United for Equity, one of the organizational plaintiffs in the case, said that this injunction directly points at the effects a decision like this has on a community.

“Anytime you challenge a school’s future existence, no matter how far in the future that is, it has an immediate impact on the stability of the school and school culture,” she said.

This preliminary injunction is simply a legal request, and now it is in the hands of Judge Franklin Ulyses Valderrama to decide the trajectory on how and when the court will approach this case.

“Nothing’s been decided,” Moore said. “We haven’t even talked to the judge yet. We have no sense of how he might be looking at things.”

Moore explains that the injunction is a very lengthy and intricate document because it has to thoroughly show and demonstrate that there is, in fact, a strong case and prove to the judge that the plaintiffs are likely to win in order for a permanent injunction to be issued.

According to Moore, an injunction of this nature will take more than a few weeks and with this type of case specifically, it could be months. Until they have the first hearing on the motion, it is difficult to anticipate what the case might look like.

“It’s hard to say what kind of timeline we’re talking about. The whole thing with preliminary injunctions is that it’s fast, but it’s not fast in how a layperson might think fast works. It’s fast for a lawyer,” she said.

Brar said that the NTA community has remained energized and resilient through the entirety of this process, but students continue to face the uncertainty and anxiety of the future of their school. For the NTA plaintiffs, the preliminary injunction is a step toward putting their foot down on an action that they claim is unjust. If successful, this will ensure that CPS will not move forward in making permanent decisions about the school, such as: hiring new staff, terminating positions or changing any physical infrastructure in the building in the time between now and when the court hears the case.

“Instead of us waiting a year to find out about that, we would like the court to go ahead and put a hold on this decision and to not allow CPS to move forward with any actions until the court really takes a look at what the case is about,” she said.

Brar noted that the NTA community continues to be engaged and creative in their approach to ensure the political choices being made by city officials do not dictate their community’s future moving forward.

“For so long in Chicago, we’ve been willing to give up our power, give up our voice and say that what is a done deal is a done deal, and there’s nothing that can be done about it,” she said. “And every further step that’s taken to stand up to institutional power in this case is a reminder to our community of the collective power that they have.”