Lawsuit aims to block closure of high school in Providence, Rhode Island

April 24, 2024
Parents contend that closing 360 High School will violate the rights of Spanish-speaking students.

A group of parents has sued the Providence (Rhode Island) school district to block the closure of a high school later this year.

The Providence Journal reports that the lawsuit asserts that closing 360 High School at the end of the 2023-24 year would violate the civil rights of Spanish-speaking students who attend the school.

"The suit asserts that closing the school violates the federal Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974," said the Center for Justice, which filed the suit on behalf of parents."This civil rights law protects multilingual students and their families in the public schools. It requires that school districts make affirmative efforts to support equal educational opportunity and to remove barriers to language access for Multilingual Learner students and their families."

The parents who are plaintiffs in the suit "are immigrant families who chose 360 High School for their children because they learned that the school offers exceptional support to Spanish-speaking students and their families."

About 60% of the school's students are Spanish speakers.

"This action is brought to prevent the defendants from disestablishing their school, reassigning the students to a school that is, in all critical regards relating to their language access and support, lower performing than the school being closed," the suit contends.

A Providence district spokeman says that in deciding to close 360 High and merge it with the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex, the district and Rhode Island Department of Education "acted in the best interests of students and are committed to expanding access to high-quality learning opportunities for all students, including multilingual learners."

Superintendent Javier Montañez announced in February that 360 would merge with Juanita Sanchez. Both institutions are housed under the same roof.

The Providence district has portrayed the closure as a merger, but numerous teachers are being displaced without full assurances of a new job in the district, and students will be switched to a different school.

Montañez has said the merged students will make up a new Juanita Sanchez Life Sciences Institute launching next year, which will "focus on preparing Providence students for high-growth, high-wage industries in the life sciences."

However, the closure has prompted outcry from some students and teachers.

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