Judge ends Mark Twain decree

In a hearing to consider CIR’s suit to rid Mark Twain Intermediate school of illegal racial quotas in admissions, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein terminated the 1974 desegregation order that New York officials believed mandated the use of racial quotas at the prestigious magnet school. School officials must now purge the admission system of the unconstitutional consideration of race.

CIR successfully challenges magnet school quota

Mark Twain Intermediate School

On January 14, 2008, 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 use of separate, lower admissions standards for white students at prestigious Mark Twain Intermediate School, a magnet school located in Coney Island, NY.

Minority students penalized

CIR represents Anjan Rau and Kanchan Katapadi, Asian Indian parents of three children.  Their eldest child, Nikita Rau, was denied

New York City Hall

admission to Mark Twain last year.  Nikita scored 79 on the entrance evaluation for the “instrumental music talent.”  White students were admitted that year with scores as low as 77.  Nikita and other minority students were required to score 84.4 or better to be admitted.

A thirty-year-old decree

The topsy-turvy quota system began with a 1974 desegregation lawsuit, Hart v. Community School of Brooklyn. The federal court ordered school officials to admit classes to Mark Twain consisting of specified percentages of minority and white students.  Population shifts over the intervening years have boosted the number of minority residents in the district, so that the school nowlimits the number of minority students who can attend the school. Anticipating that the defendants might rely on the decree entered inHart to justify the challenged quota, CIR moved separately to intervene in Hart and ask the court to rescind the decree.

60/40 hard quota

Admission to Mark Twain is competitive and is determined by a series of tests applicants take during the fifth grade.  Mark Twain had used different cut-off scores in determining admission, depending on an applicant’s race or ethnicity in order to racially balance its incoming classes to be 60% white and 40% minority.

Until CIR filed suit, school officials had not sought to rescind the quota even though it deprived qualified minority students of a place at the school for no reason other than race.  The problem was widely publicized in the summer of 2007 in articles in the New York Post, but school officials took no action to correct the problem until January 15, 2007, after CIR filed the complaint in this case.

Quota decree lifted

Following CIR’s lawsuit, and under pressure from public outcry over the 1974 order, the New York City Department of Education filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Jack Wienstein to terminate the quota system of admissions for gifted progams in New York’s District 21, where Mark Twain is located.

In a draft opinion issued on February 22, 2008, Judge Weinstein lifted the 1974 order, concluding that the school board (the original defendant in the Hart case) had “complied with the 1974 remedial order.” However, Judge Weinstein managed to skirt the issue of the constitutionality of the 1974 order by declaring that “the case is closed and has been closed for a considerable amount of time.”

The lifting of the 1974 order represents a victory for Nikita Rau and her family. Starting with the 2008-09 school year, school officials must now grant admissions into the gifted programs without consideration of race.

Case Status: Victory. City agreed to eliminate racial quota.

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