These cases -- one involving the Ithaca City School District and another involving the North Syracuse Central School District -- concern whether public school districts are covered by, and thus must follow, the New York State Human Rights Law, which expressly protects students from discrimination by schools and harassment in schools by students, teachers, and school administrators. Both cases arise from incidents in which black students were subjected to race-based bullying at school. In both cases, the school districts maintain that the Human Rights Law does not apply to public schools.
On March 8, 2012, the NYCLU and 11 other civil rights organizations filed an amicus brief with the New York State Court of Appeals in the Ithaca City case emphasizing the importance of the Human Rights Law's protections to public school students. The brief argued that the school district's interpretation would deprive millions of New York public school students the protections of the Human Rights Law. It maintains that the school district's interpretation contradicts the statute's text, is inconsistent with decisions of state and federal courts that favor applying Human Rights Law to public institutions, violate the statute's mandate of liberal construction, thwart the Legislature's clearly expressed intent, and produce absurd and unjust results.
On October 19, 2011, the NYCLU and 9 other civil rights organizations filed an amicus brief with the State Court of Appeals in the North Syracuse case making a very similar argument. The Court of Appeals will hear argument in both cases on May 2, 2012.
New York State Court of Appeals (amicus)