In a Wednesday school board meeting defending the district's plan to close 54 neighborhood elementary schools, Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she is insulted by claims her actions are "racist."
"That is an affront to me as a woman of color and it is an affront to every parent in our community who demands a better education for their children," Byrd-Bennett said at the Wednesday meeting, according to NBC Chicago. The CEO insisted the plan was made after listening to more than 20,000 individual testimonies from community hearings.
“What I cannot understand and what I will not accept is that the proposals I am offering are racist,” Byrd-Bennett said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Her response prompted shouts of “They are!” from the "often-raucous crowd."
“To refuse to challenge the status quo that is failing thousands of African American students, that’s what I call racist,” Byrd-Bennett added.
Byrd-Bennett was the target of sharp barbs during the meeting, including a Manierre Elementary school parent who charged "you're not standing for us. You're not standing for our children," DNAinfo Chicago reported. Meanwhile, a Talcott parent and Parents 4 Teachers member told Byrd-Bennett she has no faith the district ever intended to change their course in spite of the community discussions.
"We know that your decision has already been made, and your commitment to public input is a facade," Sarah Simmons said. "How do you sleep at night?"
The slated closings will affect about 30,000 students, most of them black, the Associated Press reports. Byrd-Bennett said given the district's large makeup of black or Latino students, it was to be expected the closures would affect “children of color.”
CPS data from the 2011-2012 school year shows black and Latino students comprise more than 85 percent of the district.
Those fighting the closures, meanwhile, have continued to make their voices heard.
School closing critic Matt Farmer recently released a school closings protest video (embedded below), while the Chicago Teachers Union told HuffPost they're hosting a Thursday morning bus tour of the communities to be affected by school closings for elected officials.
Wednesday, some CPS parents invited Mayor Rahm Emanuel to join them on walks of the affected neighborhoods to see first-hand the dangers they say await their children if they're forced to trek to new schools.