Public schools are meant to provide students with meaningful access to social and economic mobility, but too often our schools reproduce and exacerbate the artificial racial hierarchies that have long dominated U.S. society. Many education experts agree that to combat this phenomenon, schools must prevent the exclusion of historically silenced, erased, and disenfranchised groups, and promote cultures, languages and ways of knowing that have been devalued, suppressed, and imperiled by years of educational neglect and oppression. Tragically, few school districts incorporate this practice into their curriculum.
Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project represents students and advocates who have brought a historic lawsuit against the State of New York and New York City defendants, challenging racial hierarchies in public education and asserting students’ right under the New York State Constitution to an education that identifies and dismantles racism. The lawsuit demonstrates how New York City’s public education system props up and contributes to the City’s racial inequality by maintaining racially discriminatory admissions screens at every level of education; allowing schools to teach a white and Eurocentric curriculum that marginalizes people of color; failing to build a diverse educator workforce; and failing to equip students with the tools to identify and dismantle racism and provide mental health supports to redress the harms already wrought.