New York City

Students demand desegregation after de Blasio snubs deadline

June 26, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
Students stage a sit-in at City Hall to protest school segregation in city public schools. Eagle photo by Meaghan McGoldrick

A group of teens are taking to the floor of City Hall — literally — to call for the desegregation of New York City public high schools.

At 1 p.m. in the foyer of City Hall, a pair of Brooklyn politicians joined student leaders from Teens Take Charge and IntegrateNYC in a sit-in to challenge Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Department of Education to better integrate city high schools.

The protest comes on the last day of the 2018-2019 school year — the deadline Teens Take Charge gave the mayor to adhere to its Enrollment Equity campaign, and approve a “comprehensive plan to racially, socioeconomically and academically integrate New York City’s 480 public high schools.”

“This is not something that can happen three, four, five years down the road,” Councilmember Mark Treyger said from the foyer. “Every school year delayed is justice delayed.”

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Treyger, a former educator and the current leader of the City Council’s Education Committee, said that coming up with a plan is something the city can do immediately.

“Nothing stops the city now from incorporating admissions policies to our high schools, for example, that will have true academic, socioeconomic and racial integration,” he said. “They can do that right now — and they should do that right now.”

The sit-in was organized by Teens Take Charge and IntegreateNYC. Eagle photo by Meaghan McGoldrick.
The sit-in was organized by Teens Take Charge and IntegrateNYC. Eagle photo by Meaghan McGoldrick.

As the teens made their way to the steps of City Hall, a different group of protesters lined the gates of the legislative building to call for the ousting of Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for his support of a plan which would eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test.

Some parents have criticized the SHSAT as an instrument of segregation. The city’s nine elite high schools — eight of which use the SHSAT as the sole criteria for admission — currently enroll low numbers of black and Latino students.


The incoming freshman class at Stuyvesant High School, for example, has only seven black students. Yet, black and Latino students make up 68 percent of the overall population in New York City schools, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“We talk about 65 years ago, Brown v. Board, as though the Supreme Court is who delivered the idea of integrated public education,” Councilmember Brad Lander, also on the Education Committee, told the students at the sit-in.

“I think what we best not forget is that it is young people — mostly young people of color — who had the courage to engage in the ways that you are engaging today; to walk through crowds [who are] shouting against the idea of integration, just like you did today.”

Another protest, taking place at the same time, was staged by demonstrators opposed to the schools chancellor's plan to scrap the SHSAT. Eagle photo by Meaghan McGoldrick
Another protest, taking place at the same time, was staged by demonstrators opposed to the schools chancellor’s plan to scrap the SHSAT. Eagle photo by Meaghan McGoldrick

For one recent high school graduate from Kensington, it’s all about giving kids a fair chance at creating change.

“I grew up lucky enough to be privileged,” the recent Beacon High School alum told the Brooklyn Eagle. “But one thing that strikes me the most is how much opportunity is lost on segregation. I think by not integrating schools, you’re getting rid of a lot of that potential.”

A spokesperson for the DOE told the Eagle that Teens Take Charge’s specialized high school admissions reform proposal mirrors that of de Blasio and Carranza.

Under the pair’s plan, the SHSAT would be replaced by a new enrollment system that would allow the top seven percent of students in each of the city’s middle schools to gain admission to specialized high schools.

“Our schools are stronger when they reflect the diversity of our city, and we’ve taken real steps to integrate our schools, including adopting the student-developed ‘5 R’s’ framework for real integration,” DOE spokesperson Doug Cohen said, referring to a plan from IntegrateNYC.

While Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye, a student leader at Teens Take Charge, acknowledged that “things are finally starting to take a turn for the better” since speaking with stakeholders, immediate action is needed.

“We will continue to call for urgent action,” said Ndiaye, who is going off to college, but whose younger sister will be applying to high schools this fall. “How can I go on to higher education in peace knowing that I am leaving her in a system as broken as the one I am in now?”

As of publication, students inside are still seated, with plans to not leave until all of the day’s meetings at City Hall are over.

Earlier this month, the group held a pro-integration rally on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office pointed to de Blasio’s adoption of 62 recommendations — of a list of 67 — from the city’s School Diversity Advisory Group.


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