Coalition says United States is bound to U.N. “international treaties” and “international law.”

Kit Daniels
July 29, 2013

An activist coalition is demanding that the United Nations “investigate and take preventative measures” on “human rights violations that may result” from the closing of 49 public schools in Chicago.

Credit: Patrick Gruban via Flickr

Credit: Patrick Gruban via Flickr

The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, an association of 56 organizations and university centers, sent a 24-page “letter of allegation” to three U.N. representatives regarding the school closings, stating that the “United States is bound to comply with certain international treaties.”

The letter also stated that the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights effectively binds the United States to customary international law.”

In addition, the Midwest Coalition referred to other U.N. treaties, stating that the school closings “calls these laws and principles into question.”

The Chicago Public Schools came under fire back in March when it announced the closing of the 49 schools.

Adam Anderson, a Chicago school district planning official, said that the decision to close the schools came after CPS discovered that Chicago schools can seat 500,000 students but only 400,000 students are actually enrolled, an overcapacity of 100,000 classroom seats.

According to WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago, 87% of the schools being closed have a majority of African-American students.

Overall, African-Americans represent 42% of total students in Chicago.

In response to these statistics, the Midwest Coalition said that the school closings violate multiple U.N. treaties such as:

– The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
– International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
– International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and
– The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CRPD)

The coalition also said that the school closings violate “the right of children to be free from violence in the CRC” and “the right to life in the ICCPR.”

“Many Chicago neighborhoods are gang-controlled,” the letter stated. “When children or adults from one gang-dominated neighborhood travel to another neighborhood – or even from one block to another block – they are at risk of violence even if they are not affiliated with any gang.”

The Midwest Coalition addressed the letter to three U.N. specialists:

– Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, from India
– Rita Izsák, Independent Expert on Minority Issues, from Hungary and
– Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on the Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, from Kenya

Several of the people who signed the letter are members of Action Now, an organization formed from the ashes of the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN.

The 49 schools that are closing represent almost 10% of the public schools in Chicago.