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Paynter v. State of New York (Challenging racial isolation in Rochester school districts)

This case arises out of the concentration of poverty and the isolation of minority school children within the Rochester City School District (RCSD) and raises the question as to whether such racial isolation creates a cognizable legal claim for relief under the Education Article of the state Constitution. The plaintiffs contended that the state’s policies and practices regarding residential districting of school children reinforce patterns of racial and economic isolation of RCSD school children. Plaintiffs claim that such isolation is the principal cause of educational failure among RCSD school children, and, therefore, causes the denial of the opportunity to receive a “sound basic education” in violation of the Education Article of the state Constitution. Moreover, the plaintiffs alleged that this pattern of racial isolation and concentrated poverty particularly disadvantages African-American and Latino students, thereby violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from engaging in practices that have a racially disparate impact.

In a decision rendered in November 2000, the Supreme Court, Monroe County dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim under the Education Article of the state Constitution but refused to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim under Title VI. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal and also dismissed the Title VI claim on the basis of the Supreme Court decision in Alexander v. Sandoval, 121 S.Ct. 1511 (2001). The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of the claim under the Education Article to the New York Court of Appeals. The NYCLU, along with NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, filed an amicus brief in support of the appeal. On June 26, 2003, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the courts below and dismissed the suit. 

Supreme Court, Monroe County, Index No. 10280/98, App. Div, 4th Dept., Docket No. CA 01-00567 (amicus)

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