Racial Justice issue image

ACLU Challenges Delaware's Segregated Charter Schools

Last Update: December 3, 2014

What's at Stake

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Community Legal Aid Society have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights charging that Delaware’s charter school law and policies have a discriminatory impact on students of color and students with disabilities, and have significantly contributed to the resegregation of Delaware’s public schools.

The groups say the state, through the Department of Education, and the Red Clay Consolidated School District — the two entities that authorize public charter schools in the state — are in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

More than 3/4 of charter schools operating in Delaware are racially identifiable, according to the complaint. High-performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as white. Low-income students and students with disabilities are disproportionately relegated to failing charter schools and charter schools that are racially identifiable as African American or Hispanic, none of which are high performing. Another result of the proliferation of charter schools is increased segregation in traditional public schools located in districts where charter schools operate.

Since the passage of the Charter School Act of 1995 a state-sanctioned preferential treatment for families who are able to navigate the special requirements of charter school admissions has evolved.

These requirements include high examination scores, essays written by parents to explain why a school is a good choice for their child, access to gifted and talented elementary and middle school programs that help increase academic performance, annual activities fees, mandatory parent involvement, and mandatory high-cost uniform purchases. Such barriers prevent students from low-income African American and Hispanic families from having the same access to high quality charter schools that middle and upper class families have.

The ACLU and Community Legal Aid Society are calling for:

  • A moratorium on the authorization and opening of new charter schools until an effective desegregation plan has been implemented.
  • Utilization of a random opt-out lottery for charter school admissions.
  • Assurance that the cost of attending a public charter school is free and that parents are not required or pressured to purchase uniforms or raise money for the school.
  • Capping class size in traditional public schools at the same level as charter schools and ensuring that total funding for traditional public schools is equal to that of charter schools.
  • Providing additional funding to schools with a disproportionately high number of students of color, students with special needs and low-income students.
  • A plan to ensure that students with disabilities are recruited and reasonably accommodated in all charter schools.

Status: Complaint filed on Dec. 3, 2014

Support our on-going litigation and work in the courts Donate now

Learn More About the Issues in This Case