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Civil Rights Complaint Discussed by School Board, Community

Mamaroneck School Board and Superintendent Dr. Shaps (center) Tuesday night

With the Mamaroneck School Board beginning to look at its placement policies, and whether factors like race and ethnicity would be criteria, it’s clear a vast divide in perspective in the community has not narrowed.

School Board President Nancy Pierson moderated a heated public discussion before Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on the recent findings of the U.S. Justice Dept. Office of Civil Rights in the Kindergarten placement of students at Central School. It was the first such public forum since Rina Jimenez filed a complaint against the District in 2011 after she noticed a disproportionately high number of minority children in her son’s kindergarten class.

In August, the OCR ruled the District and Central School  “inconsistently and subjectively”  applied its placement policies and that a disproportionate number of Hispanic, Black and other non-white students actually were assigned to the same classroom in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Pierson said Tuesday she commended the way staff at Central has handled the recent wave of public outrage. theLoop and other local websites have received hundreds of comments from readers.

Jonathan Sacks

Others disagreed. During the public discussion, Darrell Davis of the Westchester Grassroots Coalition said the comments he heard from the administration are “going to get this District in a world of trouble. You’re making all the classic mistakes,” he told the School Board. “You can’t tell this family how to feel.”

Luis Quiros, a Mamaroneck community activist said, “The school district is contaminated with systems and subsystems that protect segregation…The District hires under the same formulas, organized to confuse Latino families.”

Bijan Anvar

Eleanor Sherman, a parent that brought a lawsuit she said won in Second Circuit Court against the District several years ago on behalf of her special needs son, said “this District has long experience in denying access….Separation is not equal access to education…I am appalled by the actions of the School Board and the District.”

Pierson asks Curt to stop talking

 

At one point,  a parent identified only as “Curt,” came to the podium with the Central Elementary yearbook. Someone in the audience yelled,  “Is he doing that again?” Pictures of the school yearbook aired on local TV and in newspapers last month after Jimenez used them in an effort to sow the disproportionate class.

Curt then directed his comments to Superintendent Shaps as Assistant Superintendent Dr. Anthony Minotti yelled “Sit down.”  Pierson came to the podium and asked him to leave, and he and Ms. Jimenez stormed out of the meeting.

A few parents spoke in support of the District. “I have only had positive experiences in Central School,” said Bijan Anvar, the father of two students there. “A lot of parents in the school feel the same as I do.”

Eleanor Sherman

Jonathan Sacks, who has children at Hommocks and Mamaroneck Avenue School, said this episode should be used as an opportunity. “This is a great opportunity… to experience other cultures and ideas. Unfortunately this may eliminate our ability to deal with race at all.”

Mamaroneck School Board’s Policy Committee is now considering whether to change its placement policies.

The District must report Kindergarten placement data to the OCR in September of 2012 and 2013 as part of ts agreement with the OCR.

 

 

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Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Just as mentioned by a board member at the meeting….affirmative action is indeed in question:
http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/10/justice/court-affirmative-action/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

phyllis
phyllis
7 years ago

actually, I rescind what I said because Central did NOT say “race doesnt matter”. What they DID say is that race is not part of classroom selection and if you personally have a problem with that, we can work with you to find anothernclass for your child. This was apparently refused by the complainant for reasons unknown to the public.

phyllis
phyllis
7 years ago

xanthe, the thing that OCR cited Central school for was not strictlynfollowing their placement policies. In reading the full reportr, getting down to the nitty gritty of it you can see that it was due to parents requests to split up twins and two or 3 repeat K kids. NOTHING to do with race of the kids. Whst to us as a comminity is more important…allow twins separate classrooms or make a “prettier” yearbook photo? Allow a repeat k kid the choice of different teacher/classroom style or place that kid where his/her skin color looks nicer for the yearbook? The intricacies of classroom placement have been handled IMO very well and with nothing but the best interests of the children at heart. They are very good at their job, they DO actually have the very best intereests of every child at heart and in mind. and THIS is why our district so very top rated. NEVER have I looked at the color of my kids classmates, their last names etc. Thats the VERY LAST thing I would ever consider. And they, too. I say kudos to them for standing their ground and saying Race Doesnt Matter. Best placement DOES.

xanthe
xanthe
7 years ago

I do not believe that what happened at central was intentional. But, what is to prevent any school district from having unbalanced classes and claiming that it was done in the best interests of the students when there were other motives involved? In any event the parents claim was found to have merit by the OCR in spite of what others may think of them personally.

Mike Ross
Mike Ross
7 years ago

Anon – well said, exactly what I’ve been saying all along.

Xanthe – ‘disproportionate’ doesn’t need to be ‘justified’; as Anon pointed out, all that matters is that the best placement decisions were made for the right reasons. If the result turns out to be ‘disproportionate’ it *doesn’t matter* because ethnicity is *not a factor* and ‘proportionate’ is *not* a goal to be achieved.

xanthe
xanthe
7 years ago

There is an interesting article in the Journal News today in the Opinion Section by Saul Yanofsky,former superintendent of white plains schools,- “Integration has invaluable benefits”. he states that he was disheartened when he read Howard Miller’s efforts to justify the disproportionate presence of minorities in the kindergarten class.

Anon
Anon
7 years ago

From the article: Doing What’s Best for the Child 10/7/12

Read in it’s entirety at:
http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012310070002

The scenario is typical: A group of experienced elementary school educators sit in a room at the end of a school year to determine the classroom teachers to whom their current students will be assigned in the following year. A great deal of care and concern goes into this process.

Among the factors often considered by classroom teachers are matching each student with the teacher whose teaching style, pace, personality, and expertise best matches the student’s learning style and his/her unique social and emotional needs. In making these assessments, educators view their students, as they should, by who they are as a person and learner (the “content of their character”), and not by the color of their skin or the pronunciation of their last name….
The racial equalization theory espoused by some is based on the false premise that students who are judged on their individual merit must nonetheless be equally distributed based solely on their skin color. This turns Martin Luther King’s dream on its head. It is also a clear violation of the rule of law in this country as unambiguously stated by the United States Supreme Court. See Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 127 S.Ct. 2738 (2007) (“We have many times over reaffirmed that racial balance is not to be achieved for its own sake… outright racial balancing is patently unconstitutional.”)
…In essence, a dangerous conclusion has been reached that school districts may not place more than two or three Hispanic children, or one or two black children, in any one class even if the staff who knows these students the best makes these assignments using race neutral criteria.

Directing school districts to change their way of doing things because of the way the race neutral criteria happened to play out in any given year, not only demeans students, but also, no matter how well intended, create a policy that would be squarely at odds with Supreme Court precedent. Chief Justice Roberts, writing in the Seattle decision, left no ambiguity on this point.

In the end, while statistical skews may lead to understandable concerns, the remedy should never lie in using race to determine who will educate a child.

AboutTime
AboutTime
7 years ago

Just want to make sure that everyone sees this – just published this weekend on lohud. The case was also given substantial attention in the weekend Journal News.

Re: “Mamaroneck race controversy: Mom says feds should look at 5-year data,” Sept. 24 article:

As a follow-up to the above article, I would like to present some additional points to your readers, which were omitted during my lengthy interview with The Journal News reporter.

First, the Office of Civil Rights report did not state that the Mamaroneck school district engaged in any form of intentional discrimination related to the manner in which kindergarten children were assigned to their classes.

Second, the report did not indicate that the school district’s policies, which formed the basis upon which student class assignments were made, were flawed in any manner.

Third, it is important to point out that the U.S. Supreme Court recently determined that school districts cannot use race as a determining factor when assigning students to schools or classes.

Accordingly, it would appear that unfair, negative conclusions about the district’s intentions and actions are being drawn. The district should be given the opportunity to move in a positive direction in the future, as it has already dedicated itself to doing.

Jay Worona

Latham, New York

The writer is general counsel, New York State School Boards Association.

Mike Ross
Mike Ross
7 years ago

I’m very strong on constitutional protections myself. I admit I was surprised to read that a teacher confiscating contraband after getting permission from a student to conduct a search was deemed to be effectively acting as a government agent who should have read the student Miranda rights simply because they had a relationship with the PD. That’s a definite ‘gotcha’; the mental picture of a teacher reading Miranda rights like a cop is just wrong.

xanthe
xanthe
7 years ago

The court found that the search and interrogation was unconstitutional. The student was not given the constitutional protections he was entitled to and therefore the evidence from the search was not admissible. I am not in favor of drug dealers by any means but I do support students and everybody’s right to their constitutional protections . We do not get to pick and choose when and who is entitled to them . While the case may have been many years ago , it may well point to an insensitivity towards civil rights.

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