ACLU Drops Community Education Partners From Lawsuit
Responsibility For Ensuring All Students Receive Adequate Education Falls Squarely On Atlanta Independent School System
ATLANTA – After the Atlanta Independent School System (AISS) severed its contract with Community Education Partners, Inc. (CEP) to run the city's alternative school, the American Civil Liberties Union today dropped the private, for-profit company from its federal lawsuit challenging the inadequate education provided by the school to its students. AISS declined to renew its $7 million annual contract with CEP to run the school – one of the most dangerous and lowest performing in the state – after the ACLU and the ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit last year against CEP and AISS for violating students' constitutional rights.
AISS remains a defendant in the lawsuit and now bears full responsibility for improving the school's performance and practices, which have been abysmal by nearly every available measurement.
"The appalling performance of the school while run by CEP highlights the significant problems inherent to the privatization of public education and AISS deserves credit for ending its relationship with CEP," said Reginald T. Shuford, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "It is of paramount importance, however, that this be only a first step. It is now incumbent upon AISS to honor its commitment to provide all of its students with an adequate public education."
The ACLU's initial lawsuit charged violations by the school district and CEP of students' constitutional rights under federal and state law, including the students' rights to due process and to be free from unreasonable searches. The school, managed by CEP since 2002, was designed as a privately-run, taxpayer-funded alternative middle and high school for students with behavioral problems. However, the placement process is often arbitrary and students referred to the school are routinely denied meaningful opportunities to challenge compulsory assignment to the school.
CEP's administration of schools in other cities has also come under attack. CEP has run alternative schools in Houston, Philadelphia, Richmond, Orlando and Florida's Pinnellas and Bay districts through contracts with public school systems since 1995. In 2005, CEP's annual revenues totaled $70 million. Since its contract began with AISS in 2002, Atlanta's taxpayers have paid CEP more than $50 million.
"The driving motivation of private, for-profit educational companies is not to provide quality education, but rather to make money," said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. "And, too often, these companies are not held accountable. Here in Atlanta, it's the children and taxpayers who have paid the price."
Classes at Atlanta's public schools begin on August 10.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case include Shuford and I. India Geronimo of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, Chara Fisher Jackson of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia, Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Southern Regional Office and lawyers from the Davis Bozeman Law Firm PC and Covington & Burling LLP.
A copy of the ACLU's 2008 lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/crimjustice/juv/34423lgl20080311.html
Additional information about the ACLU Racial Justice Program is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice
Additional information about the ACLU's work to combat the School to Prison Pipeline is available at: www.aclu.org/stpp
Additional information about the ACLU of Georgia is available online at: www.acluga.org