Lawsuit accuses NYC public school system of racist admissions practices

Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio greets schoolchildren on Sept. 29, 2020 Photo credit Marla Diamond/WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The New York City school system is facing a major new lawsuit, accusing it of maintaining segregated schools with racist admissions practices.

"Racism in various forms pervades the New York City school system," reads the lawsuit, which alleges that policies and practices "cause the denial of a sound basic education to New York City schoolchildren."

The suit is being brought by civil rights attorneys and several student plaintiffs naming Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio as defendants, along with city and state education officials.

"Today's lawsuit is the first of its kind in the country seeking to establish the right of New York City schoolchildren under New York's constitution to an anti-racist education," said attorney Amanda Savage with the Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law. "New York schools are among the most segregated in the United States, it's essentially a duel school system with separate and vastly unequal schools for Black and Brown children."

WCBS 880's Steven Burns reports that the suit mentions everything from a less than diverse teaching staff to the disproportionate suspension rates among students of color, but the bulk of the 81-page suit is dedicated to admissions policies.

The lawsuit calls the gifted and talented program for 4 and 5 year olds a "racialized pipeline" to "prime educational opportunities." About 75% of gifted and talented students are white or Asian-American.

"Part of our lawsuit, but certainly not all of it, asserts that students of color are denied meaningful access to social and economic mobility by an elementary and middle school pipeline that rewards familial affluence and basically a family's ability to navigate a rigged system where the people with the most resources, with superior access to test preparation and information are almost invariably the ones that come out on top," said Savage . "By far they tend to be disproportionately white and then also certain Asian communities, but not all."

The lawsuit claims the city’s public education system is “suffused with and perpetuates racism, in ways blatant or subtle, intended or willfully ignored and tolerated,” by:

· Maintaining a racialized pipeline to the City’s prime educational opportunities, including its Gifted & Talented (G&T) programs and screened middle and high schools, that excludes many students of color, who are instead condemned to neglected schools that deliver inferior and unacceptable outcomes;

· Allowing schools to teach a Eurocentric curriculum that centers white experience, marginalizing the experiences and contributions of people of color;

· Failing to recruit, retain, and support a racially diverse educator workforce to provide challenging and empathic instruction to all students; and

· Failing to provide sufficient training, support, and resources to enable administrators, teachers, and students to identify and dismantle racism, such that students of color regularly experience racialized harms at school, and failing to provide adequate mental health supports to redress those harms.

A spokesperson for the city's Department of Education tells the New York Times the de blasio administration "has taken bold, unprecedented steps to advance equity in our admissions policies.”

They say will review the suit.

At his daily briefing Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to respond directly to the lawsuit, but acknowledged the status quo is broken.

"We are ending the gift and talented standardized test. We are inaugurating a brand new system in September that will include a lot more kids to be a lot more fair in the approach," de Blasio said.

He also blames the state for not allowing more sweeping changes to high school admissions.

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