The largest U.S. civil rights group plans to file a complaint on Thursday over the admissions test at New York City’s specialized high schools, among the nation’s most elite public schools, citing effective discrimination against black and Latino students, the group said.
The complaint with the U.S. Department of Education focuses on eight schools in the city, particularly on Stuyvesant High and Bronx Science, which boast stellar alumni including several Nobel laureates, famed actors and musicians, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
While more than half the population of New York City is black or Latino, black students made up only 1.2 percent of the Stuyvesant student body last year, while Latino students represented 2.4 percent, city data showed.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is filing the complaint, said the highly competitive, 2-1/2-hour, multiple-choice Specialized High School Admissions Test was at fault for the disparity.
“Year after year, thousands of academically talented African-American and Latino students who take the test are denied admission to the Specialized High Schools at rates far higher than those for other racial groups,” the NAACP said in a draft of its complaint shared with media outlets on Wednesday before the Thursday filing.
If the department investigates and finds New York is in breach of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it can sanction the city by withholding federal funding until the breach is resolved, the NAACP said.
The city’s Department of Education said in a statement on Wednesday it was bound by state law to admit students based “solely on an exam.”
The NAACP said in its complaint that the test had never been shown to predict reliably a student’s academic potential, and breached the Civil Rights Act by having an “unjustified, racially disparate impact.”