Integrate NYC, a nonprofit founded by ‘21-’22 Justice Catalyst Fellow Sarah Medina Camiscoli, filed a lawsuit in March 2021 challenging New York City’s gifted and talented program, whose admissions policies are alleged to contribute to segregation in the city’s schools. Both the city and the state have filed to dismiss the case, and a separate group, Parents Defending Education, have also filed a separate motion to dismiss. Medina Camiscoli comments on the case in an article in Chalkbeat, excerpted below:
New York City’s gifted and talented program helps perpetuate “a racist caste system” in the city’s public schools, according to a lawsuit filed in March that continues to wind its way through the state’s court system.
Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement last week that the city plans to end the practice of testing 4-year-olds for the gifted program, the plaintiffs in the case are still challenging other admissions policies they believe contribute to the system’s segregated schools.
“I feel like it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said plaintiff N.N., a Bronx high school senior who asked to be named by his initials, the same way he is named in court documents, to protect his identity.
The gifted exam is seen as the first of several policies excluding Black and Latino children from coveted programs: They fill only 14% of gifted seats, but account for nearly 60% of kindergartners citywide. But both middle schools and high schools that base admissions decisions on test scores, including eight of the nine specialized high schools, can be exclusionary along racial lines, the student said.
Only 9% of offers for specialized high school seats, based on test scores for this year’s incoming freshmen, went to Black and Latino students.
“Until there’s amends to those kinds of admissions, I can’t say the system is fixed,” N.N. said.
N.N. is among more than a dozen NYC public school students who, along with nonprofit organization IntegrateNYC, filed the lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court nearly seven months ago. Named defendants in the suit include de Blasio, Chancellor Meisha Porter, and the state of New York.
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Both the city and state are seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. Another group, called Parents Defending Education, has filed a separate motion to dismiss the case.
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The group’s filing frustrated Sarah Medina Camiscoli, a former Bronx public school teacher who founded IntegrateNYC. “This is not a lawsuit against parents,” she said. “This is a lawsuit against the city and the state of New York for running a school system that essentially starts to function like a private school system.”