The New York City (NYC) public school system is one of the most segregated in the country. This Note examines how to use litigation as part of the broader organizing and legislative efforts to desegregate NYC public schools. First, this Note explains why federal and state courts are foreclosed as avenues to address this problem in NYC. In federal court, plaintiffs must demonstrate de jure segregation, which never existed in New York City. In New York state court, the standard that public schools must meet under the state’s constitutional Education Article is too low to implicate segregated school systems. One option for litigation that advocates and communities can use as a tool to challenge aspects of the unequal school system is to sue the school system under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). This Note explains the lowered standard that plaintiffs must demonstrate to show discrimination under the NYCHRL as compared to federal and state counterparts. Finally, this Note introduces one lawsuit that was filed in NYC to challenge unequal access to sports teams and concludes with conjectures for how to continue bringing challenges under the NYCHRL in conjunction with ongoing organizing efforts to desegregate NYC public schools.
Ms. Alajbegović thanks, first and foremost, her former students, their families, and the students who are currently organizing to integrate NYC schools for inspiring her to center the communities impacted by institutionalized discrimination in her work as a legal advocate. Ms. Alajbegović is grateful to her parents, immigrants from former-Yugoslavia, for believing in her and teaching her what it means to never give up; Professor Babe Howell and Annemarie Caruso for providing the impetus for this Note; Lauren DiMartino for her feedback and encouragement; and last but certainly not least, Erika Colangelo, Francesca Buarne, Sonya Levitova, and the CUNY Law Review staffers for their thoughtful and patient editing.
Andrea Alajbegović, Still Separate, Still Unequal: Litigation as a Tool to Address New York City’s Segregated Public Schools, 22 CUNY L. Rev. 304 (2019).