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Our Fall/Winter 2015 Newsletter
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Free Legal Counseling: CLSJ provides free legal counseling. Services provided by appointment, walk-ins and by telephone.
NYC Specialized HS Examination Title VI Complaint v. NYC DOE: CLSJ along with NAACP LDF and LatinoJustice filed this Title VI discrimination complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in the fall of 2012. The complaint challenges the legality of the admission test used by NYC DOE as the sole measure for admission to the three Specialized High Schools and five other high academic schools in NYC. The challenge is based on these facts: (1) the test has a discriminatory impact on Black and Latino students seeking admission; and, (2) the examination has never been validated. The complainants are several major advocacy groups in New York City. The complaint was accepted and the media attention was extensive. The DOE was required to respond to the complaint and provide the feds with any documentation that they request. OCR is conducting an investigation and will make a finding with a required remedy. The legal team and complainants are seeking to recommend a remedy to replace the test as the sole measure. As a result of the challenged policy, in 2013, only nine Black students were admitted to Stuyvesant; in 2014, only seven Black students were admitted and in 2015 only ten Black students were admitted. These numbers are typical examples of a longstanding trend that has worsened in the past decade.
The results for the other high schools governed by the practice were similarly extremely disproportionately negative, although not as stark. The high schools that are being challenged employ an admission practice that uses a single non-validated examination to determine entrance. Three of the schools, Brooklyn Tech, the Bronx School for Science Stuyvesant, are required by state law to use the test as the single measure. Five additional high schools are subjected to the single test merely by city government policy.
We are simultaneously seeking to have NYS legislation passed to repeal the existing state law requirement for the test as the sole measure for the specialized high schools and NYC removed 5 schools from using the test.
PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY:
Alternates to the Grand Jury: General Counsel L. D. Favors researched grand jury laws for the purposes of aiding legislators to better assess the impact of revising current grand jury structure in the case of police involved shootings. This work included meeting with experts in the field of criminal justice, researching legislative amendments in other jurisdictions (California, Connecticut, Minnesota), attending public sessions with legislators and representatives from the State AG office, and editing the New York criminal procedural law language as it pertains to grand juries and police involved shootings.
NYS Election Law: L. Favors is engaged in ongoing research and editing of pending legislative bills for the purposes of strengthening the bills’ language and better aligning the language with the needs of disenfranchised New Yorkers.
Police and Racial Violence Project
The Police and Racial Violence Project, seeks to address the re-occurring horror of police brutality in New York City. CLSJ intends to again positively affect New York City’s official practices and public policy on police brutality and the excessive use of force by NYPD by advocating for (1) widespread community education on “Know Your Rights with NYPD;” (2) enforcement of current police policy barring chokeholds and for the criminal indictment and strong disciplinary action by NYPD against officers who violate the policy; and (3)the enactment of the Community Safety Act Parts 3 + 4 and other significant changes in NYPD procedures that will change the police officers’ behavior and result in saved lives and better police community relations.
Voting Rights Projects
Currently, the voting rights of Black New Yorkers are challenged by a number of recent court decisions and election practices. For example, due to Shelby v. Holder, a 2014 US Supreme Court decision, the Black voters of NYC are no longer protected by the strong preventive controls of Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act. This CLSJ project is focused on election protection by monitoring and conducting comprehensive legal research on such changes and advocating against adverse proposed election procedures. CLSJ also conducts community forums and outreach and public speaking, we also testify at public hearings, litigate, and build alliances with other progressive public interest organizations.
Education Equity Projects
Parent Advocates Coming Together (PACT): The goal of PACT is to train Central Brooklyn parents with an interest in advocacy to be more effective advocates. PACT is designed to equip parents with the tools and knowledge to be organizers and advocates for quality education and increased parental involvement in public schools. With the continued support from both private and public funding (Mission Benevolence Fund of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn and New York City Council) PACT sponsored training workshops on topics such as “Planning Your Child’s Education from Pre-K to 12th Grade,” “How to Navigate the Department of Education’s Website,” and “Entitlements of Parents of Students with Needs.”
Education Equity Advocacy: CLSJ’s continues its advocacy work addressing citywide issues in public education facing NYC families. CLSJ will be partnering with the member organizations of the Coalition for Public Education, a citywide grassroots coalition for educational equity in 6th NYC public school system.
Social Media: Leading up to CLSJ’s Teaching Black Students event and the Beauty of Blackness and the Law, General Counsel Lurie Favors engaged in active social media marketing to promote the events and to supplement the work of the CLSJ’s communications consultants. This work included blog posts, engagement on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and live streaming via Periscope.
Cultural Rights Projects
Esmeralda Simmons, representing CLSJ of Medgar Evers College, is continuing to provide legal work and the human rights advocacy perspective to several African-centered cultural organizations.