New lawsuit accuses NY school system of segregation in gifted programs

The city is alleged to have denied a basic education to almost a milliion students

The New York City school system might be facing a makeover due to a new lawsuit.

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One of the largest school systems in the country is being accused of segregation and denying almost a million students a basic education, per The New York Times.

“This is the first case in the nation to seek a constitutional right to an anti-racist education,” said Mark Rosenbaum one of the lawyers suing the city and state,

New York City Middle Schools Reopen For In-Person Learning
Students wait inside the auditorium until classes start at Sun Yat Sen M.S. 131 on February 25, 2021, in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

The suit is being introduced by student plaintiffs in State Supreme Court in Manhattan and civil rights attorneys such as Benjamin Crump. It argues that the school system has  “replicated and worsened racial inequality,” and claims that kids are placed on unfair academic tracks as early as kindergarten.

New York’s school system is considered one of the most socioeconomically and racially segregated in the country.

The defendants in the suit are listed as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Meisha Porter, the incoming schools chancellor and the first Black woman to hold the title.

“This administration has taken bold, unprecedented steps to advance equity in our admissions policies,” said Danielle Filson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in a statement.

“Our persistent work to drive equity for New York City families is ongoing, and we will review the suit.”

The suit also mentions that the City has disproportionately high suspension rates for Black and Latino students and a lack of nonwhite teachers despite the student population being 70% Black and Latino.

“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,” reads the complaint.

New York City is not unique. As previously reported by theGrio, school systems across the country have faced similar accusations.

A ‘Slave letter’ writing activity has sparked outrage at a Mississippi middle school in Lamar County. 

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Eighth graders at Purvis Middle School were asked to “pretend like you are a slave working on a Mississippi plantation” and “write a letter to your family back in Africa… describing your life.” 

A screenshot of the history assignment titled “Slave Letter Writing Activity” has been shared across social media, The Daily Beast reports. One bullet point on the exercise tells students: “You may also want to tell about the family you live with/work for and how you pass your time when you aren’t working.”

Lamar County School District Superintendent Dr. Steven Hampton said the goal of the assignment “was to show our students just how horrible slavery was and to gain empathy for what it was like to be a slave.”

“We do not discriminate against race. We want to be sensitive to what happened in the past,” Hampton said.

Frank Bunnell, the principal at the mostly white Purvis Middle School, sent an email to parents in which he apologized for “something like this happening under my watch.”

Bunnell also noted that the screenshot showing one of the slides from a PowerPoint presentation was taken out of context.

“A person could read just the assignment and draw a very unrealistic view of the true tragedies that occurred. That was not intended,” he wrote. “However, intent does not excuse anything. There is no excuse to downplay a practice that (even after abolished) spurs unjust laws, unfair economic practices, inhumane treatment, and suppression of a people.”

Activists called the exercise demoralizing.

“I don’t know how a logical person teaches this,” said Jeremy Marquell Bridges, social media manager for Black Lives Matter Mississippi. “Like someone who went to school to teach children could think this exercise was helpful in any way. It’s not helpful, it’s hurtful.”

 Ny Magee contributed to this story.

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