New York Law School

Fair Housing, Equal Opportunity

The upcoming Supreme Court docket promises to settle two salient issues relevant to racial justice. The first, Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. v. Township of Mt. Holly involves discrimination in the housing market. The second, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action continues the discussion of diversity in the college admission process, in the context of a Michigan amendment that prohibits the consideration of race on collegiate applications.

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The Fight to Renew the Dream

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On September 13, 2013, New York Law School had the pleasure of hosting a few of the most progressive civil rights lawyers and social justice advocates at our Racial Justice Symposium, Remembering the Dream, Renewing the Dream. We were also proud to host several of the Civil Rights Movement’s pioneers, including Clarence Jones, Dr. King’s lawyer, adviser and one of our featured panelists. During the “Fierce Urgency of Now” panel, Jones discussed the March on Washington, its history and how Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech came to be. Mr. Jones also discussed some of the statistics and issues facing minorities today, such as the correlation between single-parent homes and poverty rates for African-Americans. The discussions of the day concentrated on the challenges social justice advocates face in modern society and the strategies they can utilize to counteract issues such as apathy within the community.

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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

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

The Community Safety Act

It can happen anywhere. Walking home from school. Walking to the grocery store. Walking to the subway. Thousands of New Yorkers are stopped and frisked by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers every year.  Stop-and-frisk consists of two separate acts with respective levels of legal justification.  When a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime, the officer may stop that person; however, in order to “frisk” or search that person, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped has a deadly weapon or instrument.  Read more

Voter Victory in Texas

Many states have or are trying to pass legislation to make the requirements to vote in an election very costly and complicated—potentially disenfranchising many poor and minority populations around the country. Thankfully though, one of the most suppressive voter identification laws to date will not be in effect this November. Texas Senate Bill 14, a very stringent voter identification bill passed in 2011, was recently declared unconstitutional by a three-judge panel of the District Court of the District of Columbia; marking “the first time a federal court has blocked a restrictive voter ID law.”

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The New Supreme Court Term

Monday, October 1, 2012 marked the commencement of the new term for the United States Supreme Court. This term is filled with controversial issues ranging from same-sex marriage to drug-sniffing dogs. Especially interesting are the race-related cases that are before the Court. The highly anticipated race-conscious admissions case, Fisher v. University of Texas, for which the Court heard oral arguments on October 10, is a very important case. Petitioner Fisher brought this equal protection action against the University of Texas alleging that she was denied admission and passed over for minority students due to UT’s race-conscious admissions program. The primary issue presented is whether race can be considered in admissions programs at institutes of higher education. Read more