Equity & Diversity

N.Y. State Held Liable for Vestiges Of Segregation in Yonkers Schools

By Karen Diegmueller — October 02, 1996 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

New York state officials hindered efforts to integrate the Yonkers public schools during the 1960s and ‘70s and must pay to help eliminate disparities between whites and minority students in the district, a federal appeals court ruled last week.

Yonkers school officials estimated at the time the district and the NAACP sued the state in 1987 that it would cost $500 million to close the gap between white students and Hispanics and blacks.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit held the state financially liable for remedying the inequities, but remanded the case to a lower court to affix the dollar amount and work out other details.

Legal experts said the judgment means that states can be held accountable if they knowingly permitted municipalities to continue race-based segregation.

In this case, the appeals court went further and found that during the ‘60s and ‘70s, state education officials and the legislature actively encouraged segregation in Yonkers via a series of actions at the state level.

The court noted, for example, that in 1976 the legislature pressured the state board of regents to fire then-Commissioner of Education Ewald Nyquist chiefly because of his strong commitment to desegregation.

The lawmakers also curtailed a state fund that districts used to help integrate schools and used busing as a litmus test for confirming regents, according to the 55-page opinion.

Improvement Plan Pending

The Yonkers case began in 1980, when the federal government and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the city and its school board.

In 1986, a federal district court ordered the city to integrate, and in 1987 it allowed the Yonkers district and the NAACP to sue the state for help in paying for the remedies.

In a ruling last year, U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand had determined “with reluctance” that the state could not be held responsible because it had not actively engaged in maintaining segregation. (“N.Y. Not Liable for Desegregation Costs in Yonkers,” April 5, 1995.)

In last week’s ruling, the appeals court agreed with Judge Sand’s factual findings, but overturned his decision.

Local officials said that while that lawsuit was pending, they desegregated the schools as best they could, but a lack of money hindered their efforts to wipe out the remnants of discrimination.

The current racial makeup of the 24,000-student district is 40 percent Hispanic, 30 percent black, and 30 percent white.

Superintendent Reginald F. Marra said last week that the district has designed a plan that includes upgrading the curriculum, investing in staff development, adding service staff, increasing parent participation, repairing and renovating school facilities, reducing class sizes, and updating technology--both in the classroom and in district offices.

Mr. Marra’s reaction to the long-awaited decision was bittersweet. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the children and the city of Yonkers,” he said. “We are elated for them.”

Yet, he added, “I feel so bad for the children who were in our school system and graduated over the last nine or 10 years. But I’m very optimistic about the future.”

State education officials referred all inquiries to the state attorney general’s office, where officials said last week that no decision had been made about an appeal.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 02, 1996 edition of Education Week as N.Y. State Held Liable for Vestiges Of Segregation in Yonkers Schools

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion Are Your Students the Protagonists of Their Own Educations?
A veteran educator spells out three ways student agency can deepen learning and increase equity.
Jennifer D. Klein
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of opening the magic book on dark background.
GrandFailure/iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Enrollment Down. Achievement Lackluster. Should This School Close?
An equity researcher describes how coming district-reorganization decisions can help preserve Black communities in central cities.
Francis A. Pearman
5 min read
Illustration: Sorry we are closed sign hanging outside a glass door.
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity School Librarians Are Creating Free Book Fairs. Here's How
School librarians are turning to free book fairs in an effort to get more books to children in poverty.
9 min read
Students at Mount Vernon Library in Raleigh, N.C., pose with free books after their book fair. School librarian Julia Stivers started the free book fair eight years ago, in an effort to make the traditional book fair more equitable. Alternative versions of book fairs have been cropping up as a way to help students' build their own personal library, without the costs associated with traditional book fair models.
Students at Mount Vernon Library in Raleigh, N.C., pose with free books after their book fair. School librarian Julia Stivers started the free book fair eight years ago, in an effort to make the traditional book fair more equitable. Alternative versions of book fairs have been cropping up as a way to help students' build their own personal library, without the costs associated with traditional book fair models.
Courtesy of Julia Stivers
Equity & Diversity Download Want to Start Your Own Free Book Fair? Here's How You Can Get Started
Book fairs may shut out families in poverty. Here's how some school librarians are making free versions.
1 min read
Photo of book fair.
iStock