New York Education Dept. Is Sued Over Violence in Schools
By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS APRIL 7, 2016
A group of public school families and a pro-charter advocacy group filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday alleging that the atmosphere at New York City public schools was depriving students of their right to receive an education free of violence, bullying and harassment.
The class action suit, filed in New York’s Eastern District against the New York City Department of Education and its chancellor, Carmen Fariña, claims that violence in schools is often underreported and that it disproportionately affects certain groups of students, like those who are black or Hispanic, lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender.
“The violence knows few boundaries, except that, on average, white and Asian students encounter far fewer incidents of school violence than black and Hispanic students,” the complaint said.
The suit was filed by 11 students and their families. They were joined by Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter advocacy group that has been a fierce and frequent critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s education policies.
The suit claims that the Education Department had failed “to address and remediate in-school violence in New York City’s public schools, despite the clear mandate from the New York State Legislature to do so.” It asks that the city be compelled to devise a plan to address issues of violence and harassment, and asks the court to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the Education Department’s efforts.
In a statement, Mr. de Blasio said: “I was a public school parent as recently as last June, and we never want to see a weapon in schools. I view each incidence as obviously troubling. However, when we look at the facts, school safety is doing a very good job continuing a trend that started in the last administration and continues — this year to date, the major crime in our schools is down 14.29 percent and other crimes down 6.77 percent.”
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said it was reviewing the complaint.
Jeremiah Kittredge, the chief executive of Families for Excellent Schools, and parents from the suit were planning to hold a news conference Thursday morning in front of the Education Department’s headquarters to discuss the case.