Noted American terrorist and left-wing radical Bill Ayers is among the signatories of a letter calling on the United Nations to probe the closing of 49 Chicago elementary schools based on claims that it is causing massive human rights violations.
The “letter of allegation” is 24 pages long and contains 17 footnotes.
The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights sent the missive to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland this week.
The Coalition is a network of over 50 organizations united to fight “serious human rights violations occurring in the United States.”
A number of individuals and organizations sponsored the letter. In addition to Ayers, others signers of the letter include four people associated with Action Now, an Illinois community-organizing group that split off from ACORN just before it dissolved because of financial problems and scandals.
As Eagnews.org notes, still another endorser is Michael Klonsky, a former leader of Students for a Democratic Society also a former chairman of a Maoist organization called “Communist Party (Marxist Leninist).”
Sital Kalantry, a clinical law professor at University of Chicago Law School who actually filed the letter with the U.N., told Chicago public radio station WBEZ her view that the school closings violate the inalienable fundamental rights of thousands of affected Chicago schoolchildren.
“The United Nations taking this issue up and giving it serious attention will really bring home to Chicago and the United States that there are violations occurring here of human rights, potentially, not just about a budget crisis,” said Kalantry.
The letter argues that the 49 school closings violate human rights because they affect black families disproportionately, because they force students to cross gang lines to get to the new schools they will attend, because class sizes will be slightly larger and because the school closings happened despite the objections of some people.
The dispatch asks the U.N. to “urge the United States to investigate and prevent these human rights violations.”
It’s not clear how or if the U.N.’s human rights office will act. The U.N. has no power to direct or regulate any federal, state or municipal government in the United States. The international body is, of course, free to conduct inquiries and issue findings, however.
The commissioner currently occupying the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights is Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, a country where a ruthless system of racial segregation was institutional and legal until the early 1990s.
According to the United Nations’ own 2012 Human Development data, the United States ranks “very high” in human development—third, in fact, sandwiched between Australia and the Netherlands. South Africa, on the other hand, has attained mere “medium” human development. The country is ranked 121st, between Kiribati and Vanuatu—and behind Mongolia, Algeria and Azerbaijan.
Chicago Public Schools did not immediately respond to the letter.
The legal foundation underlying the letter of allegation involves a number of conventions and covenants to which the United States and Chicago have attached themselves.
The United States government has ratified the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (with a number of important reservations), for example. The federal government also made the U.S. a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. That document was also ratified with reservations, though, and it was interpreted as only implying rights already guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
In 2009, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution adopting the international body’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, notes WBEZ. The resolution instructed all city agencies to develop policies consistent with it.
Kalantry told the public radio station that the nation and the city must now act in accordance with these covenants.
On their faces, none of the covenants appear to prohibit the closure of elementary schools in the face of massive budget problems.
In May, the Chicago Board of Education voted 6-0 to shutter 48 elementary schools, reports the Chicago Tribune. (The vote was closer for a 49th elementary school.) All affected students will transfer to new schools next fall. (RELATED: It’s official: Chicago Public Schools will close 49 elementary schools for good)
The school closings are the centerpiece in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s long-term plan to close the $1 billion budget deficit currently facing the city.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which staged a strike last fall for higher wages and to protect employees from layoffs, has been furious about the closings. In June, union president Karen Lewis gave a blistering speech excoriating racism and ‘rich white people’ for the financial crisis facing the city’s schools. (RELATED: Chicago teachers union chief faults ‘rich white people’ for city’s education mess)
Meanwhile, as WBEZ notes, federal and state cases that challenge the school closings are well underway.