February 2 — 3:14 pm, 2016

Advocacy groups score win in curriculum lawsuit

gym activism Katelin Fritz

In 2013, the Public Interest Law Center and Parents United for Public Education helped parents file 825 complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) regarding various school deficiencies. Now the PDE has validated those claims in four schools: Bodine High School for International Affairs, Philadelphia High School for the Creative & Performing Arts, the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, and C.W. Henry School.

PDE’s findings were a direct result of the 2014 lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court by the Law Center on behalf of seven parents after the PDE failed to respond to various parent complaints, which included a lack of art, music, physical education, and gifted and foreign language classes.

Benjamin Geffen, staff attorney at the Law Center, said the lawsuit was necessary to require further action.

“After we filed the complaints, many schools said the issues brought up were local matters that should be discussed at school meetings,” he said.

“Other schools gave no response at all.”

In December, the PDE mandated that the District investigate curriculum-based deficiencies found in the four schools and required that the District provide a corrective action plan in 45 days. District spokesperson Fernando Gallard said the District met the Jan. 22 deadline by providing reports to the PDE.

“The reports include individual corrections for each deficiency,” Gallard said.

But Robin Roberts, one of the complainants, said curriculum issues at C.W. Henry School that she raised – such as the elimination of gifted programming – have still not been addressed.

“They are tweaking the same curriculum that was deemed inefficient. It may look good on paper, but it doesn’t address real needs for students with IEPs [Individualized Education Plans],” said Roberts, a Parents United member.

Roberts said she hopes schools will meet students’ needs but plans to continue to push for action.

Geffen said the lawsuit will continue to ensure accountability.

“We don’t exactly know the current progress in the schools until this plays out, but the lawsuits are still active and will go on.”



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