Students of color urge lawmakers to bring more sports to their schools

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A group of Black and Hispanic students from across the city have banded together to rally for more sports at their schools and met with City Council officials to demand parity that would give them as many sports choices as neighboring white schools, the NY Daily News reports.

On Tuesday, the group of about 30 students went to City Hall for a volunteer lobbying day of meetings with some nine City Council members that centered on the lack of athletics and after-school sports at schools where there’s a dominant population of students of color.

One student, Lisa Parks, who attends the Bronx Academy of Letters, said poor kids and students who attend smaller schools get the short end of the stick and suffer more because they have less recreational activities.

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“We’re all human beings and we should all have the same opportunities,” said Parks, 16, of the Bronx. “I should not be fighting to have sports in my school — I should already have them.”

Parks said rich school students have their pick of the litter with dozens of choices, while her smaller school has only eight sports options.

“Sports are a thing that everyone loves,” said her classmate, sophomore Devaun Longley, 16.

“If we had a larger variety, people would go for it.”

Students from neighboring schools Forest Hills High School in Queens and New Dorp High School in Staten Island joined Parks and Longley for the day of action and encourage Council members to support for legislation and a resolution that was introduced on Dec. 3 to relieve the issue.

Introduced by Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn/Queens), the resolution calls on the city Education Department to “ensure that all students have equitable access to after-school athletic activities and associated funding.”

“We need to ensure that every child in the city of New York has access to sports teams and the benefits of sports teams in their schools,” he said. “All students should have access to sports.”

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There’s also a lawsuit looming that points out a bigger issue at hand.

In June, the nonprofit New York Lawyers for the Public Interest filed a lawsuit saying the city has in place a sports policy that discriminates against Black and Latino students because those kids have access to fewer teams, the outlet reports.

Public Interest senior staff attorney Melissa Iachan, who is also the lead attorney on the case, said the city’s Public School Athletics League has violated human rights laws and is shutting out students of color from sports and they contend that a disparity exists in the system.

“It’s race-based discrimination in the provision of public services and resources,” Iachan said. “Black and Latino students have access to, on average, about 15 sports teams per student, whereas students of other races have access to, on average, more than 25 teams per student.”

“The research shows students who participate in sports do better academically and get suspended less often,” said Bronx activist and educator David Garcia-Rosen, who is the founder of the Small Schools Athletic League. “All the good things go up and all the bad things go down.”

Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said the DOE’s Division of School Climate and Wellness, is now overseeing PSAL in an effort to address the disparity.

“Sports can play an important role in our students’ lives, and we’ve added approximately 400 teams under this administration,” Barbot said. “We are partnering with communities to expand access to PSAL programs for all New York City public school students.”