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Published in Print: December 16, 1998, as New York State Sued Over Education Equity For Minority Students

New York State Sued Over Education Equity For Minority Students

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The New York state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that educational opportunities for the state's minority students are so inferior that they amount to discrimination.

Schools with 80 percent minority enrollment have more unqualified teachers, fewer remedial services, and fewer opportunities for students to earn honors diplomas than those where the majority of students are white, the suit against the state charges.

The New York Civil Liberties Union shaped its case using statistics gleaned from the state's own files, said Christopher Dunn, a lawyer for the organization.

State officials "regularly point out the disparities in the educational outcomes and in the educational resources offered to high- and low-minority schools," Mr. Dunn said. "We are simply using the data the state gave us."

State education officials declined to comment on the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Dec. 3. As a matter of agency policy, officials cannot comment on pending litigation, said spokesman Bill Hirschen.

The lawsuit claims the disparities violate Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination. Unlike many lawsuits brought on behalf of low-income or minority students, it does not, however, focus on school funding inequities.

N.Y.C. Excluded

Instead, the NYCLU bases its case on the comparatively low performance of 80,000 students in approximately 150 high-minority schools outside of New York City.

Students from New York City were excluded because a group known as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity filed a similar lawsuit against the state on behalf of its 1.1 million students last year, said Mr. Dunn. That lawsuit is still pending.

The NYCLU lawsuit names various state officials as defendants, including Gov. George E. Pataki, Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills, and Board of Regents Chancellor Carl T. Hayden.

At a news conference on the day the suit was filed, the Republican governor told reporters he is proud of his administration's efforts to boost spending for schools, but declined to comment on the specific charges in the lawsuit.

Vol. 18, Issue 16, Pages 17,22

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