In early 2015, six refugees filed this class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York (Judge David Hurd). The plaintiffs sued the Utica School District under the Declaratory Relief Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, claiming violations of the Equal Educational ...
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In early 2015, six refugees filed this class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York (Judge David Hurd). The plaintiffs sued the Utica School District under the Declaratory Relief Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, claiming violations of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C § 1703; Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.; New York Education Law § 3202(1); the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause; the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause; and the New York State Constitution’s Due Process Clause.
The plaintiffs, represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, alleged that the defendants consistently denied Utica residents between the ages of 17 and 20 who were limited English proficient (LEP) and immigrants access to educational opportunity. Defendants diverted this largely refugee population to alternative education programs rather than allowing them to enroll at the only public high school in Utica. The alternative education programs provided either only English as a Second Language (ESL) classes or a combination of ESL and GED classes, both of which provided a substantially inferior education to normal high school courses. When students inquired as to the reason for the diversion, defendants indicated that the students were too old to enroll in the high school. In fact, under New York law, individuals have a right to attend high school until they reach age 21. The plaintiffs sued for declaratory and injunctive relief.
The case was litigated for several months, and after mandatory mediation did not result in a settlement, litigation continued until early 2016 when the parties commenced settlement negotiations.
On June 3, 2016, Judge Hurd ordered a consent decree stipulating the terms of the settlement between the parties. The terms included that the defendants were to provide any student between ages 17 and 20 with the opportunity to attend the public high school, while taking steps to overcome language barriers students may face. Defendants were to also train all Utica City School District employees on the enrollment process for LEP students, and take efforts to inform the community that all students between ages 17 and 20 can enroll at the public high school. The consent decree is set to expire on June 3, 2020.
The case is currently still open in order to ensure enforcement of the consent decree.Virginia Weeks - 09/29/2016