NYC to add more than 200 school athletic teams in $6 million class action settlement

New York City will spend $6 million to add more than 200 new school sports teams to the settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging the Department of Education gave Black and Hispanic students unequal access to sports.

The lawsuit, filed by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest in 2018, alleged that the DOE and the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) had consistently failed to ensure all children in New York City had equal access to athletic teams since smaller high schools . Many of them are mostly black or latino students, have fewer resources.

“Black and Hispanic students are twice as likely as other races to not have access to any public high school athletic team,” the lawsuit states, with more than 17,000 Black and Hispanic students attending schools without PSAL teams when they have been filed first. The lawsuit was first reported by City Limits.

In the settlement, finalized in state court in March, DOE and PSAL agreed to expand shared access programs for clusters of smaller high schools to create cross-sports programs that students from different schools can participate in. PSAL staff will interview students at the target schools to determine what sports the students would like to play.

As the Bloomberg administration closed dozens of underperforming large high schools and created smaller schools between 2002 and 2008, one result was that students in the smaller schools were underfunded compared to larger schools, said Jenny Veloz, a community organizer for NYPLI.

The lawsuit grew out of a teen-led organization called the Fair Play Coalition, which was formed to combat unequal access to sport. The class action lawsuit was intended to ensure that “students were not penalized because they went to a smaller school or went to a school that didn’t have as many sports where they were unable to play the sport they wanted to play and had to find outside resources to practice these sports,” Veloz said. “We wanted to make sure that … they had the same equal access as everyone else in the New York City public school system.”

Suzan Sumer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said the PSAL expansion will be rolled out in all counties so that “students from every zip code will have access to PSAL exercise programs that support their health and well-being.”

“We are committed to providing equitable access to our incredible PSAL programs and putting the life-changing power of sport in the hands of our students. Currently, we have invested $6 million in a major PSAL expansion that will ultimately provide NYC public schools with over 200 new athletic teams across the five boroughs,” Sumer said in a statement.

The City Parks Department said school teams will continue to be given priority for parking permits.

“We are committed to supporting equitable access to the field for all children, including those playing on PSAL and Department of Education teams,” park spokesman Dan Kastanis said in a statement. “We are working with PSAL and the Department of Education to assess upcoming local needs and we are confident that we have the staff and Parkie power to ensure our permit holders have a successful upcoming season.” NYC to add more than 200 school athletic teams in $6 million class action settlement

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