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Anti-segregation case against New York City Public Schools clears key hurdle

First-in-the-nation case asserting a right to an antiracist education to continue

New York City, May 3, 2024—A first-of-its-kind lawsuit asserting a right to an antiracist education under the New York State Constitution, filed against New York State and City, will move forward under a ruling by a state appellate court. In the lawsuit, IntegrateNYC, students, and community groups – represented by Public Counsel and the Peer Defense Project – challenge policies that entrench segregation and drive racial inequity in the New York City public school system. 

“This historic decision marks the beginning of the end of New York City’s two-tiered education system,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a Public Counsel attorney on the case. “I hope the City and State will say enough is enough, and the system that screens Black and Latinx students out of elite public schools will finally be eliminated.”

“It’s an open secret that the City maintains, and the State sanctions, a racialized tracking system that locks most students of color out of the City’s best classrooms,” said Amanda Mangaser Savage, a Public Counsel attorney on the case. “This is a question of rights, not policy: Conditioning access to educational opportunity on wealth and race is illegal.” 

New York City schools are among the most segregated in the nation. Beyond the discriminatory admissions system, the lawsuit also challenges the lack of a culturally responsive curriculum, racially disparate disciplinary practices, and the failure to build a diverse educator workforce. 

“It’s unfortunate that we are surprised by this good news,” said Elena Chatzilias, Youth Co-Executive Director at IntegrateNYC. “It’s so exciting and feels special as we acknowledge the upcoming 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. This comes right on time, yet also late. It’s been five years of still hearing grief from BIPOC NYC students about the hurdles and hoops to get into schools that offer quality educational resources, and the isolation and disconnection with faculty and curriculum that don’t represent their cultural identity and experience. Yes, this is a win, but the job is not done.”

 “The mayor and the chancellor have consistently voiced their disregard for school integration,” said Omari Soulfinger, Adult Co-Executive Director at IntegrateNYC. “But this latest decision ignites a spark of hope. With students, families, and teachers eagerly awaiting, it’s time to hold this administration accountable for the 2019 pledge to embrace 62 recommendations from the School Diversity Advisory Group. Let’s demand action, not just words – tracking, monitoring, and researching diversity and integration must pave the way, ensuring school districts comply with state laws.” 

The lawsuit calls for straightforward solutions:

  • Eliminate racially discriminatory screening processes for the gifted program, specialized high schools, and other prime education opportunities.
  • Improve the recruitment and retention of teachers and other school personnel who are people of color.
  • Monitor and enforce schools’ compliance with the State’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework.
  • Create and enforce an accountability system for reforms to systemic racist problems.
  • Create a court-enforceable plan to ensure the district comes into compliance with State laws.

“This decision sends a few clear messages to school officials — separate is not equal, students have rights, and mobilized students seed change,” said Sarah Medina Camiscoli, co-counsel at Peer Defense Project. “We will support the plaintiffs to move the case forward to realize a public school system promised by New York’s Constitution— a place where young people can grow into powerful agents of democracy.”

The ruling has cleared the way for the case to move forward, including the discovery of evidence about the district’s practices. The case is Integrate NYC et. al. v. The State of New York, et al., No. 2022-02719.

For more info about this lawsuit, click here.


For media inquiries, email Ian Watts here.

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