Atlanta Independent School System Officials Will Ensure Students' Constitutional Rights Are Upheld After Settlement of ACLU Lawsuit

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Debbie Seagraves, ACLU of Georgia, (770) 303-8111; dseagraves@acluga.org

Atlanta Independent School System Officials Will Ensure Students' Constitutional Rights Are Upheld After Settlement of ACLU Lawsuit

Lawsuit Charged Atlanta Alternative School With Providing Inadequate Education

ATLANTA - Atlanta
Independent School System (AISS) officials have agreed to implement a
broad array of improvements at its alternative school as part of a
settlement of a federal lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil
Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia. The lawsuit charged AISS,
which has now resumed administration of Forrest Hill Academy from
Community Education Partners (CEP), with violating students'
constitutional rights to an adequate public education.

"AISS deserves a tremendous amount
of credit for reaffirming its commitment to providing all of its
students with an adequate public education," said Reginald T. Shuford,
senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "Today's
agreement is a very hopeful sign that the students at Forrest Hill will
from here on out receive the kind of quality education they deserve and
to which they are entitled."

The ACLU and the ACLU of Georgia
filed the lawsuit in March 2008 charging AISS and CEP with violating
students' constitutional rights under both federal and state law. CEP
is a for-profit corporation that was paid approximately $7 million a
year by the city to run the school until AISS severed its contract with
the company earlier this year. The ACLU dropped CEP as a defendant in
the lawsuit after AISS ended its contract with the company.
 
The lawsuit specifically charged
that students' rights to be free from unreasonable searches was
routinely violated at the taxpayer-funded alternative middle and high
school for students with behavioral problems, and that the performance
and practices of the school were abysmal by nearly every available
measurement.

"It is a real credit to AISS leaders
that they have expressed such a strong commitment to ensuring that the
education provided to the school's students meets constitutional
standards," said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of
Georgia. "Students don't deserve to be stuck in a system that simply
funnels them on a pathway toward prison, and the commitment of AISS to
the students at Forrest Hill will go a long way toward making sure they
succeed academically and later in life."

As part of the agreement, AISS
officials will ensure that students at Forrest Hill Academy are free
from unreasonable searches, that the constitutional due process rights
of students are upheld when they are assigned to the school or
disciplined and that a learning environment be cultivated that
effectively facilitates students' return to traditional schools as
quickly as reasonably possible.

According to terms of the
settlement, AISS officials will utilize a curriculum at Forrest Hill
that is based on the Georgia performance standards under state law and
which is substantially similar to the curriculum available at Atlanta's
other public schools, including services for students with disabilities
and remedial classes. All Forrest Hill students will be subjected to
discipline in a manner that upholds applicable law and constitutional
standards of due process. And no Forrest Hill student will be subjected
to intrusive searches without authorities first articulating reasonable
suspicion.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the
case include Shuford, Chara Fisher Jackson of the ACLU Foundation of
Georgia, Nancy Abudu from the ACLU Southern Regional Office and lawyers
from the Davis Bozeman law Firm PC and Covington and Burling LLP.

Additional information about the ACLU Racial Justice Program is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice

Additional information about the ACLU of Georgia is available online at: www.acluga.org

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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