CIR challenges race-exclusive program
On November 19, 2007, the Center for Individual Rights filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, challenging the New York City Department of Education’s policy of excluding Asian American and white students from a test preparation course because of their race.
The fifteen-month course, called the Specialized High School Institute (SHSI), was designed to prepare selected students to take the demanding admissions exam for the city’s elite Specialized High Schools, including Brooklyn Technical High School, the Bronx High School of Science, and Manhattan’s famed Stuyvesant High School.
Too many Asians?
CIR represented Stanley Ng (pron. “Ing”), a Brooklyn father whose daughter wished to apply to the SHSI program. Her junior high school guidance counselor refused to give Ng an application, and when Ng contacted the NYC Department of Education in November 2006, an official with the Department told him the program was open only to students of certain races or ethnic backgrounds. The official then asked his daughter’s race. When Ng said his daughter is Chinese, the official told him Asians were already “overrepresented” in the Specialized High Schools.
And in an internal NYC Department of Education Memorandum (CLICK to Read) obtained by CIR, the Local Instructional Superintendent emphasized that applications to SHSI were to be given “only to your eligible students.” An “eligible” student was defined in the memo to include American Indians, Alaska Natives, blacks, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders.
Low-income whites and Asians
Ng spent over a thousand dollars for a private test preparation course for his daughter after she was excluded from SHSI based on her race – a route taken by other middle-income families whose children were racially barred from the program. Many parents whose children were excluded because of their race could not afford private courses. In Ng’s own District 20, 77% of students were eligible for free or reduced-priced school lunches under Title I because of low family income. (District 20 was 65% white or Asian.)
Parents Against Discrimination
Stanley Ng was born in New York City’s Chinatown and works as a computer programmer. Together with Ng, CIR represented two other Chinese American parents in Brooklyn, Margaret Ching and Dennis Chen, both of whom have children who were prevented from participating in the examination prep course because of their race. In addition, CIR represented a parents’ organization called Parents Against Discrimination, which Mr. Ng formed, consisting of parents of white and Asian children who hope to participate in the preparatory course once it was opened to students regardless of race.