New York City parents and activists filed a federal lawsuit with the Office of Civil Rights on Monday, claiming that the city's high school admissions process discriminates against black and Hispanic students by storing them away in low performing schools and setting them up for failure. They demanded a federal investigation and an overhaul of the admissions system.
Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said that Mayor Bloomberg’s administration inherited a system where zip code once determined a student’s quality of education. Since his first day in office, eliminating the achievement gap is a reform Bloomberg’s administration has championed. Admission to top performing schools is instead based on academic records, test scores, attendance, student preference and other factors.
However, Education Law Center attorney Wendy Lecker, who originally filed the complaint, says the selection process is racist.
“The city is sending African-American and Latino students to schools where they are much less likely to earn a diploma,” Lecker said. “We want new policies to give all students a fair shot.”
In 2011, only 3 in 5 black or Hispanic students graduated from a city high school within four years, compared to 4 in 5 white and Asian students, according to the Urban Justice Center. The most startling statistic reports that only 13 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic students demonstrated college readiness.
Another lawsuit was filed earlier this month with the state’s Supreme Court, challenging a policy that gives preference to younger siblings whose family members are already enrolled in gifted and talented programs. Seats in the program are so limited that some parents considered temporarily adopting out their children to citywide faculty in order to secure a spot.
Janet Roberts, director of product development at Aristotle Circle, a tutoring company, commented on the quality of the city’s education, suggesting that students of all circumstances are intellectually inhibited by limited city resources.
"At the end of the day,” she said, “it's just so horrible to be a student in New York City right now.”