Civil Rights Complaint Discussed by School Board, Community
03 Oct, 2012
By Polly Kreisman
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.