“We do not think our case, or our children’s rights, should be dismissed.”
STATEN ISLAND, NY. Today, immediately prior to oral arguments on the defendants’ motion to dismiss Wright v. New York, the plaintiff families spoke directly to members of the press and the public from the steps of the Richmond County Courthouse. Today’s hearing marks a key turning point in the education of students across New York State. The plaintiff families urged the court to deny the motion to dismiss and force educational leaders to come to terms with the Constitution’s educational guarantees.
Denying the motion to dismiss will allow the parents to pursue their claims and prove their case by seeking documentation from the defendants that will demonstrate the constitutional violations alleged. Permitting the plaintiffs to proceed will shed transparency on a system often hidden from the public.
“Today is a historic day for our families,” said Carla Walker, mother of five from Rochester. “We filed this lawsuit, on behalf of my daughter Jada and students just like her around our state, because we believe current state laws violate our children’s constitutional right to education guaranteed to them in our state’s Constitution.”
Families from across the state filed suit in July 2014 against the State of New York and others, claiming that the institutionalized retention of ineffective teachers deprives each child of their right to a sound basic education as guaranteed under the New York State Constitution. The plaintiff families made three primary arguments:
1. The parents have stated a claim for relief in their Complaint. Existing case law in NY establishes what research has otherwise confirmed: students can only learn, succeed, and overcome adversity if they are taught by effective teachers. But, the statutes the parents are challenging keep too many ineffective teachers in the classroom and ultimately deprive students of their constitutional right to a “sound basic education.”
2. Defendants want to shield these harmful laws from judicial scrutiny and insulate their unconstitutional policies from review. But Plaintiffs have standing to file this lawsuit because enforcement of these laws is causing systemic harm that is injuring students statewide every day. Plaintiffs’ children have been taught by ineffective teachers and face the future risk of being taught by other ineffective teachers. They are the very group of people that Article XI of the NY State Constitution is intended to protect.
3. Courts play a vital role in our democracy, ensuring that other branches of government do not deprive citizens of their constitutional rights. That is what plaintiffs ask the court to do here. Defendants try to paint this as a political dispute, but it is a constitutional claim that the court should decide.
Laurie Townsend from Forest Hills said, “When my 11 year old son Nakia Jr., was in the 2nd grade, his science teacher shoved him. In the 4th grade, that same teacher targeted my son again and shook him again – that teacher remains in the classroom. I was outraged. When abusive teachers remain in the public education system due to poor teacher dismissal laws, my child’s and other children’s educational rights are violated. We won’t be dismissed. Our voices deserve to be heard.”
Mona Pradia, mother of three from Rochester said, “My 14 year old daughter, Adia-Jendayi suffered the worst school year she ever had because the teachers who were laid off had less seniority than incompetent teachers. Laying off our teachers, just on the basis of seniority, doesn’t take our students’ needs into consideration. As a parent and aspiring teacher, I’m proud to stand with other parents to fight for all our children.”
ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP FOR EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE
The Partnership for Educational Justice helps students, families and communities advocate for the great public schools they deserve through coalition building and legal action. All children, no matter their background or circumstance, deserve access to a sound education. The inequalities that exist in our educational system are the civil rights issue of our time. Motivated by a pervasive lack of meaningful progress in ensuring a supportive learning environment for all students, Partnership for Educational Justice challenges antiquated education laws that prevent public schools from providing all students with an excellent education. Targeted litigation will be supported by an aggressive communications campaign at the local, state and national level. Through its work, Partnership for Educational Justice will mobilize families, community stakeholders and organizations to form effective coalitions that increase pressure on legislators and other decision makers to reform our educational system. Founded by Campbell Brown, an award-winning journalist and writer, Partnership for Educational Justice is a recognized 501(c)(3) organization.
Partnership for Educational Justice
Press Contact: Chapin Fay, 212-681-1380