Latino and Black Students Demand Equal Access to Sports in NYC Schools

A demonstration by the Fair Play Coalition led by Council member Antonio Reynoso demanded equitable access to after-school sports instruction. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Latino and Black students in New York City public schools are being discriminated against when it comes to sports. Not only are they being denied the right to equal access to sports activities and resources for their physical development, but 17,000 high school youths are not taking part in any team in any discipline.

This is the complaint of more than 30 teens who joined Council member Antonio Reynoso on the steps of the City Council to urge the Department of Education (DOE) to stop applying what they say is preferential treatment in sports instruction. (…)

“Currently, Black and Brown students are being deprived of equal access to sports teams and resources, and this inequality comes from systemic failures and inconsistencies in the Department of Education’s process for granting and funding sports teams,” said Council member Reynoso (…)

“My initiative 242, which is widely supported by my fellow council members, would require the DOE to submit a detailed report on the way it invests funding in athletes, which would allow for more transparency and give us the opportunity to guarantee equal access to all students,” said the Brooklyn representative. (…).

During the demonstration, students and activists went to the offices of the council members to request their support, and criticized the fact that Latino and Black students have access to 10 fewer sports teams than students of other races. (…)

“My school only has six sports, and that affects me because I had better grades when I was practicing sports. What I’m seeing is that, if we are Latino or African American, we are being treated as if we did not have the same value, and that has great impact on our lives,” said Mateo Díaz, 17, a Bronx student of Puerto Rican origin. (…)

“It is not fair that some schools do not have the same opportunities as others just because they have more Black and Latino students,” said Ecuadoran-born Jenni Bueno, a senior at a Brooklyn school. “For instance, I go to a school where 60 percent are white, and we have many options. People who are in sports can apply for college scholarships, a right that they are being denied in other places.”

Melissa Iachan, a member of the Fair Play Coalition, established a few years ago to address parental concerns about unequal access to sports in city schools, (…) pointed out that the fight is being promoted directly by the students.

“It is very inspiring to see them today at City Hall after having taken workshops in which they learned to defend policy on issues they care about, raising their voices for justice and demanding change in such matters as sports which directly affect their lives,” said the activist. She added that, in June, the organization New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) filed a class-action lawsuit against the DOE and for racial discrimination for denying students access to sports activities. [Editor’s note: Iachan is a senior staff attorney at NYLPI and the lead lawyer in the case, which also involves the Public School Athletic League (PSAL).] (…)

Amanda Daniella García, a coordinator with the group Organizing for Equity, NY (OFENY), asked for “equality for all students, because sports allow them to have a more comprehensive handle of things, and also have an impact on suspension rates and on keeping our children in school.”

Upon learning about the criticism expressed by students and politicians, the DOE said that it is committed to implementing sports programs in schools, but did not address the claims of discriminatory treatment against Hispanic and Black students.

(…)

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