District 97, family settle discrimination suit
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:29PM
OAK PARK — District 97 has settled a lawsuit with a family who claimed discrimination when their son was not allowed to attend school in 2011.
In a joint statement Friday afternoon, District 97 and the Edwards family announced they had settled the lawsuit. According to court records, the case was settled Thursday.
The Edwards family filed suit against District 97 in September 2011, after their son, Nehemiah, wasn’t allowed to enroll in the school he attended summer school at because the district questioned the family’s residency. He attended Longfellow Elementary School from 2004-2008, and in 2011 was an eighth grader enrolled at Julian Middle School, but was getting services at Hillside Academy.
According to the Hillside Academy website, the school “offers elementary, middle and high school programming to special education students in the western suburbs of Chicago.”
The family filed a federal lawsuit, claiming their son was wrongly kept out of school, partly because he is black.
“As a result of the information shared during the discovery process, the Edwards’ view of their position changed,” according to the statement.
Christopher Cooper, attorney for the Edwards family, could not be reached early Friday evening for comment.
District 97 will now decide whether its residency investigations process and the way it contacts families regarding it can be improved, “so that similar complaints of insensitivity and arbitrariness may be avoided,” according to the statement.
District 97 Policy, Planning and Communication Director Chris Jasculca added in an email Friday that the district does not discriminate when verifying student residency.
“We take our responsibility to the citizens of Oak Park very seriously, which is why we worked closely and collaboratively with all of our families during the past two years to verify the residency of the more than 5,600 students we serve — nearly 43 percent of which are minority students,” Jasculca wrote. “We undertook this process to ensure that we are operating in accordance with the law and, equally important, upholding our promise that taxpayer dollars will be used to provide the children of this community with a high-quality education.”