Victory in New York exam schools case

U.S. District Court Judge Dora L. Irizarry approved a stipulated settlement agreement that brings to a successful conclusion CIR’s suit challenging the use of a quota against Asians in New York City’s Specialized High School Institute. Pursuant to the settlement, the New York City Department of Education agreed to eliminate the use of race in awarding admission to the Institute — which is an enrichment program designed to help students pass demanding admission exams to elite City high schools — and pay attorneys’ fees and damages to CIR client Stanley Ng. The Stipulation requires the defendants to notify CIR of any changes to the criteria for admissions to the Institute, and the court retains jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the agreement for a period of three years.

Last November, Ng sued to end the school policy of prohibiting Asian middle school students from applying for the enrichment program on the illegal ground that there already were “too many” Asians in elite City high schools. Documents CIR obtained in pretrial discovery confirmed that, with slight variations across the ten educational regions of the city, DOE had applied explicitly racial admissions criteria for the Institute, and used these to exclude Asian and white students from the program.

CIR challenges race-exclusive program

Student in science lab

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), is 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 is representing Stanley Ng (pron. “Ing”), a Brooklyn father whose daughter wished to apply to the SHSI program.  Her junior

New York City Hall

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 emphasizes that applications to SHSI are to be given “only to your eligible students.”  An “eligible” student is 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 are racially barred from the program.  Many parents whose children are excluded because of their race cannot afford private courses.  In Ng’s own District 20, 77% of students are eligible for free or reduced-priced school lunches under Title I because of low family income. (District 20 is 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 is representing 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 is representing 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 is opened to students regardless of race.


Case Status: Victory: case settled on favorable terms

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