Lawsuit v. DCPS: First of Its Kind in Country

Atty Johnny Barnes joins host Thomas Byrd (center) and Virginia Spatz on The Education Town Hall
Atty Johnny Barnes joins host Thomas Byrd (center) and Virginia Spatz on The Education Town Hall
Attorney Johnny Barnes and an 8-person legal team filed suit in March against DC Public Schools in an effort to stop school closures. The suite claims that the closures — which will affect nearly 3000 students, 99.9% of whom are students of color and 82% of whom are low-income; 2 white students will be displaced — are discriminatory.

“This suit is first of its kind in the nation. We expect others to crop up,” Barnes said, speaking on The Education Town Hall‘s April 18 show on We Act Radio.

Listen to the full discussion of the lawsuit.

The case was filed in DC court but moved to Federal Court at the defendant’s request.
Thomas Byrd, host of The Education Town Hall, asked if the defendant’s transfer of the case to Federal Court was intended as a delay tactic.

“Their whole strategy is to put barriers before us,” Barnes responded. “But it is not working.” The judge set a hearing for May 10 and promises a response before May 23 when the DC Council votes on the schools budget, effectively ratifying the closings.

Substance of the Case

The case includes four complaints:

1) Equal protection: “Hobson v Hansen made clear that the equal protection clause applies to DC through the 5th amendment: If you offer education to one student you have to offer to all.”

2) Title VI: You can’t treat different classes of individuals disparately

3) ADA and IDEA act: When dealing with special education students, you have to design individually, not with a blanket plan to close a school

4) In re: Human Rights Act

Barnes said one precedent is Griffin v. Prince Edward County. This case showed that “when you deny equal opportunity to one class in preference to another, you violate the Constitution….The court has power to stop you and superintend your money to order the schools to be kept open.” (more on this case.)

Hearing May 10

“We need the public to turn out on May 10 at 11 a.m. in courtroom 19 at the Federal Court House to show the community’s deep interest in the case,” said Barnes. “We should pack that room and have people out in the hallway.”

Asked how long the hearing would run, Barnes explained: “We have to check with the judge to see how much time he will give us. He’s been gracious.”

There is a rally scheduled outside the courthouse beginning at 9:30 a.m. Copies of materials relating to the case are available on Barnes’ website,

During a break, Barnes noted that Empower DC, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit, is accepting donations to cover costs of taking depositions – deposing Chancellor Kaya Henderson will cost about $1000, e.g. — costs for filing materials and motions, etc.

The Education Town Hall
April 18 edition on We Act Radio

Listen live on Thursdays at 11 a.m. (EDT) on
full recordings archived for later discussion and sharing
look for more information on The Education Town Hall’s blog,

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