New York Law School

Should Adoption Be Color-blind?

One of the most controversial topics in the field of family law is transracial adoption (“TRA”). While this term technically includes the practice of minority families adopting white children, the debate on TRA mostly centers around adoption of minority children by white families. Opponents of the practice claim that TRA deprives children of cultural identity because they do not have a role model of the same race. Proponents of TRA believe that the concern of maintaining a child’s racial identity can be addressed in other ways, and the paramount focus should be on placing the child in a loving adoptive home. Read more

The Case of Shoshana Hebshi – A Cautionary Tale on the Use of Racial Profiling

On September 11, 2011, Shoshana Hebshi boarded Flight 623 en route from San Francisco, California to Detroit, Michigan.  Ms. Hebshi, a 35 year-old American born and raised in California, was returning home from a Labor Day weekend spent visiting her sister.  While she anticipated that security would likely be increased on the ten year anniversary of 9/11, the daughter of a Saudi man and Jewish woman had no inkling that her journey home would culminate with her being arrested, detained and strip searched, solely because of her ethnicity, and because she had the “misfortune” of being seated between two men of South Asian origin. Read more

The School to Prison Pipeline: A Necessary National Conversation

The phrase “school-to-prison-pipeline” has been heard frequently around the country over the past several years as schools have shifted towards implementation of zero tolerance policies that criminalize student behavior, resulting in students entering the criminal justice system for offenses that would once have warranted a trip to the principal’s office, after-school detention, or a meeting with parents to discuss the behavior. Even more disturbing is the fact that African-American, Latino, LGBT and disabled students are disproportionately impacted by these policies. The school-to-prison-pipeline is exactly what it sounds like; a pipeline through which students are pushed out of schools and into the criminal justice system due to a national trend in schools criminalizing minor infractions and handing over control of school discipline to law enforcement. Instead of counseling or educational assistance, students are criminally punished for minor infractions and introduced to the juvenile justice system at an early age, increasing the likelihood that they will return to the system in the future. Read more

The Challenge of Black Commentators in the Obama Era

Political commentary has certainly been contentious since the election of President Barack Obama. However, a new phenomenon has arisen since the election of the nation’s first black president: differing opinions of black commentators regarding their criticism of President Obama, especially regarding issues of race. This has led to two sharp extremes: some steadfastly defend the President on all accounts, while others have harshly criticized him, using incredibly inflammatory rhetoric in the process. Read more

The Promise of the Sleeping Giant: Title VI and LDF’s Specialized High School Desegregation Complaint

On November 15, 2012 the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education launched its investigation into the admissions test for New York City’s Specialized High Schools, in response to the complaint filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in September of 2012 (read more in our R2J Post of November 28, 2012). Considering the ahistorical and decontextualized approach the Supreme Court has taken when considering school segregation under the Equal Protection Clause, I can only hope that the Office of Civil Rights is able to awaken what U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, has called the “sleeping giant”—Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Read more

Racial Justice Project Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Congressman John Lewis

Today the NYLS Racial Justice Project filed an amicus brief on behalf of Congressman John Lewis in Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in February.

Congressman Lewis is recognized as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, along with Dr. King, Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. He was one of the planners and keynote speakers at the March on Washington in August 1963.

On March 7, 1965, Congressman Lewis led one of the most dramatic protests of the Civil Rights Movement. The day came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” That day Congressman Lewis led protestors over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Congressman Lewis was severely beaten and his skull was fractured. Today, political historians and constitutional scholars acknowledge that Bloody Sunday was the main impetus for President Lyndon Johnson submitting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to Congress on March 15, 1965.

The Racial Justice Project’s brief attests to the high price many paid for the enactment of the Voting Rights Act and discusses the mechanisms that continue to suppress, dilute, and infringe upon minorities’ constitutional right to vote. To read the brief, click here.

Black Youth Are More Exposed to Alcohol

Turn to your favorite hip-hop TV station.  Watch the advertisements. Open up the latest issue of Jet or Vibe magazine.  Turn on the radio.  It’s everywhere—the African American youth culture is knee deep in alcohol exposure.  A recent study published by John Hopkins University Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) reinforces that it’s time to begin implementing some changes.

On September 27, 2012, CAMY released a study putting some concrete data findings behind their concerns of marketing to Black youth.  The focus of the CAMY study was to: (1) analyze exposure of alcohol advertising by type and brand among Black youth ages 12-20 in comparison to all youth ages 12-20; and (2) assess the exposure of Black youth ages 12-20 to alcohol advertising relative to Black adults and all adults, and accordingly the extent to which Black youth were exposed to more alcohol advertising relative to adults in magazines, on radio, and on television.

The bottom line: African Americans ages 12 to 20, generally consuming more media than other non-African American youth, are exposed to far more alcohol advertisements on TV and in magazines than youth in general. Read more

2013 Symposium Announced: Remembering the Dream, Renewing the Dream

SAVE THE DATE! Friday, September 13, 2013 at New York Law School

Remembering the Dream, Renewing the Dream: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” Speech and the March on Washington

On the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the March on Washington, leaders of the civil rights movement will join prominent civil and human rights attorneys and legal scholars to reflect on the impact Dr. King’s speech and the March had on the civil rights movement, examine civil rights enforcement in the federal courts, and discuss the legacy of these events today and for the future.

For more information or to pre-register, visit the symposium website at www.nyls.edu/RememberingTheDream.

Sponsored by the Justice Action Center at New York Law School, the New York Law School Racial Justice Project, and the New York Law School Law Review. Selected papers presented at the symposium will be published in a future issue of the New York Law School Law Review.

Race-based Education Standards in Florida

In a move that is drawing heavy criticism from parents, educators, school board members, and community advocates, Florida’s State Board of Education just approved a plan that sets educational achievement standards at different levels based on race. Under this new plan, white and Asian students are held to a higher standard than black and Hispanic students, with the expectation that 88% of white students and 90% of Asian students will be reading at grade level by 2018, while only 74% of black students and 81% of Hispanic students are expected to be reach that same goal.  The goals for math proficiency are similar, with the highest targets set for white and Asian students and the lowest set for Hispanic and black students. Read more

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Complaint Challenging Specialized High Schools

On September 29, 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) filed a complaint against the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and New York State Department of Education (NYSDOE), alleging that the admissions process for New York City’s Specialized High Schools (SHS’s) causes unjustified racially disparate impact, and is therefore in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The admissions process is determined solely by a student’s rank-order score on a multiple-choice exam called the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). LDF’s complaint alleges that this admissions process results in many qualified, high-potential students being denied access to the experiences that New York City’s Specialized High Schools offer. Read more