NY High Court Says Public School Students Not Protected By Human Rights Law: Lambda Legal Calls on Legislature to Protect Students

"The protections provided by the Human Rights Law should apply to - and are needed by - 100 percent of New York's students. We urge the legislature to amend it to protect students in public schools against discrimination and harassment."

Date

Date: 
06/12/2012

(New York, June 12, 2012) - Today, the New York Court of Appeals issued a ruling that the New York Human Rights Law does not protect students against harassment and discrimination in public schools. As a result, the nearly 90 percent of all New York students who attend public schools are now denied access to that law's comprehensive protections.

In her dissenting opinion, Judge Carmen Ciparick wrote, "It is antithetical to the purpose of the Human Rights Law to exempt public schools from its mandate...[D]iscrimination is 'all the more invidious' when practiced by state run entities. The clear and expressed intent of the Human Rights Law is to protect 'every individual' in the State from the evils of discrimination."

"The protections provided by the Human Rights Law should apply to - and are needed by - 100 percent of New York's students. We urge the legislature to amend it to protect students in public schools against discrimination and harassment," said Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. "The Human Rights Law is far more specific and explicitly inclusive than other antidiscrimination laws, and provides remedies and procedures that other laws do not. Without it, New York public school students who are harassed or discriminated against, including LGBT youth, lack adequate state law protection."

The court's decision addressed two appeals that raised this issue. One appeal, Ithaca City School District v. New York State Division of Human Rights, arose from that school district's challenge to the Division's award of damages to a young African-American girl and her mother after a public hearing, based on findings that the school district permitted relentless racial harassment of the girl by other students. The other appeal, North Syracuse Central School District v. New York State Division of Human Rights, arose from that school district's challenge to the Division's ability to investigate and hear a mother's complaint that the school district permitted students to racially harass her daughter. Both school districts argued that the Human Rights Law provision protecting students against discrimination and harassment does not apply to public schools at all.

Last March, Lambda Legal and eleven other civil rights organizations filed a friend of the court brief stressing the importance of the Human Right Law's protections to public school students. The organizations joining Lambda Legal as amici on this brief are: Advocates for Children of New York, Inc., Anti-Defamation League, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Disability Advocates, Inc., Empire State Pride Agenda, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Ithaca Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Task Force, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, Inc., New York Civil Liberties Union, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Click here for background on Ithaca City School District v. New York State Division of Human Rights.

The case is: Ithaca City School District v. New York State Division of Human Rights

Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney, and Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director handled the matter for Lambda Legal.

 

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Contact Info

Jonathan Adams O: 212-809-8584 x 267, E: jadams@lambdalegal.org    
    
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.