Minorities Sue NYC for Better Access to High School Sports

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York City public schools deny black and Latino students equal access to high school sports teams, a class action claims in New York County Supreme Court.

Represented by Katherine Rosenfeld with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, four high school students who attend “segregated schools” in the Bronx, and the youth-led nonprofit IntegrateNYC claim the city refuses to remedy the unequal funding for its students of color.

“Defendants could avoid the disparate access to sports in the city’s public schools in a number of ways, including by taking more aggressive measures to grant preference to newer and less established schools, modifying their prohibition against playing for another school’s team, being more proactive in making fields and facilities available to newer and smaller schools, and encouraging or providing support for small schools to band together and share PSAL [Public School Athletic League] teams,” according to the 37-page complaint.

The class asked the court to compel New York City to adopt a fairer system for allocating funding for interscholastic sports teams. They claim, among other things, that the co-defendant Public School Athletic League consistently spends less money per capita on black and Latino students compared with other races.

The students challenge the city policy of “grandfathering” budget allocations, which renew automatically in perpetuity, to older and larger schools with long-established teams, which are disproportionately schools with relatively low black and Latino enrollment.

While the 219,039 black and Latino high school students in New York City public schools make up 68.3 percent of schools’ 320,502 high school students, the average black or Latino student attends a school with 15.6 athletic teams, whereas the average student of another race attends a school with 25 athletic teams.

Statistics cited in the complaint show that New York City schools whose enrollment is majority black and Latino on average have less than 20 athletic teams, while schools where no more than 10 percent of the students are black and Latino have an average of 42 teams.

The students claim that the city spent 14 percent less on the average black or Latino student athlete ($51.24 per student) than they spent on the average student of another race ($59.76 per student) in 2014.

Schools comprised of 10 percent or fewer black and Latino students had a 91 percent Public School Athletic League team approval rate from 2012 through 2017, while the city approved just 55 percent of the teams requested by schools with 90-100 percent black and Latino student enrollment, according to the complaint.

The students ask that the city require every small public high school be considered part of an “umbrella program” with co-located or nearby schools, and facilitate groupings of approximately the same number of eligible students, which would be granted an equal number of teams.

They also ask that the city facilitate sharing field and court space for after-school sports to improve access for students at schools that do not have their own fields and courts.

A spokesman for the city Department of Education told Courthouse News on Friday: “We are dedicated to providing the maximum number of opportunities for all students to play on sports teams and take part in a transformative experience that strengthens school communities.

“We are continuing to add more teams each year in districts across the city and work closely with schools to assess and address their individual needs in an equitable manner.”

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