A Local School Council (LSC) member at Hyde Park Academy High School is again having her eligibility challenged, after a petition against her was dismissed late last year.
Maira Khwaja, who serves as one of two community representatives on the school’s LSC, first found herself challenged in December after winning the position, when another candidate alleged that Khwaja’s address of residence made her ineligible for the position. The case was dismissed when the person making the accusation failed to show up to a Chicago Public Schools hearing.
This time, the complaint comes from an anonymous person who lives in the south suburbs, according to Khwaja. (Under the Chicago Board of Education’s rules, the Board “may act upon anonymous challenges, personal knowledge, or other information of council members’ ineligibility.”)
“The (CPS) Law Department received that request. The complaint said it was mailed on Thursday, February 11, and was received by the law department on February 18. The postmark is coming from south suburban Illinois, so it’s somebody who does not live in Chicago, probably saw it on the internet or is either affiliated with the school,” said Khwaja, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the information from CPS.
According to CPS LSC guidelines, “A community resident is eligible to serve on the Local School Council if he/she: resides in the school attendance area or voting district (for "multi-area" schools).” Multi-area schools are defined by the Illinois school code as those that are not local attendance area schools, which have a set attendance boundary. Hyde Park Academy is a neighborhood school with a set attendance boundary, according to CPS.
Khwaja says that she was initially encouraged by a Hyde Park Academy teacher to run for community representative. The said that her candidacy was fine because she lived in the voting district and CPS would check her eligibility upon submitting her application.
“I was told that if you file your paperwork, CPS will check your eligibility when you file and if they permit you to be on the ballot, then that means you're eligible,” Khwaja said. “CPS permitted me to be on the ballot.”
Khwaja believes the challenge came because she is a progressive LSC member and an advocate for removing police officers from CPS schools. “I think what's obvious about why I am being challenged, because I have been very vocal and working with other organizers on this ongoing question of should police officers be stationed inside the school?”
Khwaja says she appreciates that Antonio Ross, the school principal and LSC member, and other administrators have been very welcoming to her, as the staff has varying beliefs on police in schools. CPS and Ross did not respond to a request for comment from the Herald.
Khwaja’s hearing will take place on Thursday, May 27. The Herald will report on the outcome of the hearing.