The lawsuit alleges that young-age admissions criteria favor students who are White and affluent.
New York City students have filed a lawsuit against the five borough’s public schools system, claiming that its more selective academies use flawed admissions criteria which disproportionately favor White applicants.
According to Reuters, the lawsuit—filed in a Manhattan state court on Monday—suggests that public schools admissions are “rigged.”
Children, the suit says, are sorted into different schools and programs when they are as young as four years old. In many cases, eligibility criteria serves affluent, White students best.
Since selection can begin at such an early age, students of color—as well as students who come from less-wealthy households—have a harder time eventually gaining admission to selective programs. Oftentimes, they are sent to poorly funded schools, the lower quality of education at which diminishes chances for future success.
“Nearly every facet of the New York City public education system operates not only to prop up, but also to affirmatively reproduce, the artificial racial hierarchies that have subordinated people of color for centuries in the United States,” the lawsuit states.
The New York Times notes that the city’s selective schools have such unbalanced demographics that they are effectively implementing a form of systemic racism.
In 2019, for instance, about three-quarters of all Black and Latino students attended schools that were less than 10% White—whereas more than 75% of White students went to schools that were predominately Caucasian.
Attorneys representing the students are asking that a New York court order the state—and the nation’s—largest city to eliminate or otherwise fundamentally revise its admissions process, both for selective schools and gifted and talented programs.
The Times says that any ruling favorable to the plaintiffs could have far-reaching consequences.
“We absolutely think that all students across the country have a right to an anti-racist education,” Public Counsel attorney Amanda Savage said at a news conference.
While the office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to offer specific comment on the pending lawsuit, de Blasio himself admitted that the city’s selective-schools admissions are “broken” and in need of replacement.
Danielle FIlson, a spokesperson for the city’s Education Department, said New York has recently taken several steps toward reform: allowing for teacher evaluations to be used for admission to youth gifted and talented programs, and temporary suspending middle school admissions schemes.
“This administration has taken bold, unprecedented steps to advance equity in our admissions policies,” Filson said. “Our persistent work to drive equity for New York City families is ongoing, and we will review the suit.”