Lawsuit accusing New York City officials of discriminating against Asian American students thrown out by judge

  • Southern District of New York Judge Edgardo Ramos has junked a lawsuit that aimed to stop a 2018 diversity initiative that the plaintiffs say discriminated against Asian American students.
  • The lawsuit, filed by civil rights organizations and Asian American parents of public school students, claimed that the admissions changes made by former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Education Chancellor Richard A. Carranza violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • The diversity initiative changed the admissions processes of eight prestigious high schools in a bid to increase the number of low-income students in the most selective high schools in New York.
  • By altering the eligibility criteria to target admissions from lower-income schools, more slots were made available at such schools, resulting in a 5-20 percent increase in each school's incoming class.
  • Several Asian American civic and parent groups argued that the initiative violated the Equal Protection Clause since most of the low-income students who qualify for it are Black or Hispanic.
  • In his ruling, Ramos made note of 2019 and 2020 data that showed the number of Asian American students at selective high schools still rose even after the changes were imposed.

A New York court has junked a lawsuit accusing city officials of discriminating against Asian American students during the 2018 selective high school admissions process in the city. 

According to the lawsuit filed by civil rights organizations and parents of public school students, the admissions changes made by former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former city education chancellor Richard A. Carranza violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

Imposed in 2018, the diversity initiative changed the admissions processes of eight prestigious high schools in a bid to raise their number of Black and Latino students.

On Wednesday, Southern District of New York Judge Edgardo Ramos denied the plaintiffs’ request to stop the initiative, saying the policy could not have been discriminatory as the number of students of Asian descent offered admission has increased since it was imposed. When De Blasio announced the initiative four years ago, he pointed out that while 70 percent of all students in the city are Black and Latino, only 10 percent of them were able to get enrolled in selective schools.

He noted that the discrepancy prompted them to expand the 1997 state law-mandated Discovery program to increase the number of low-income students in the most selective high schools in New York.

Ramos argued in his ruling that before the program was expanded, the “highly prestigious” schools only accepted students through a high-stakes test or the Discovery program.

By altering the eligibility criteria to target admissions from lower-income schools, more slots were made available at such schools, resulting in a 5-20 percent increase in each school’s incoming class.

While it was also then recommended that the Specialized High School Admissions Test be removed, the plan to do so did not pan out.

The Discovery initiative received a negative response from several Asian American parent groups, which argued that it violated the Equal Protection Clause since most of the low-income students who qualify for it are Black or Hispanic. 

According to some of these Asian American parents, setting aside a fifth of the seats for Discovery-qualified students could prevent their children from equal access to the selective schools.

In his ruling, Ramos made note of 2019 and 2020 data that showed Asian American student enrollment at selective high schools rose even after the changes were imposed.

Featured Image via Ernesto Eslava

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