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Echoing Flint water crisis, NY’s East Ramapo Central School District allowed lead water for years

SPRING VALLEY, NY In response to reports of widespread lead contamination and a Building Conditions Survey that found nonfunctional taps in every school building in New York’s East Ramapo Central School District, the New York Civil Liberties Union – along with 24 partner organizations – sent an urgent letter today to Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie calling on Albany to take over the district immediately and called on the state to remediate the lead in all school buildings.

“It is unthinkable for New York to tolerate such deplorable, dangerous conditions for the students in East Ramapo schools,” said Johanna Miller, Director of the Education Policy Center at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The District has clearly demonstrated that it cannot provide a safe environment for its 10,000 public school children — the state must take over and establish an immediate plan for improving conditions.”

Since the school board will not invest in necessary repairs, local staff have been forced to turn off several drinking taps across the district. High school students have reported to the NYCLU that there is no longer bottled water available in their buildings.

Water fountains have been cut off in the buildings for seven or more years, but children as young as Pre-K are still using lead contaminated water to wash their hands in school bathrooms. As of now, the only other protection the District is providing for young children exposed to lead-tainted water — some of whom can’t even read yet — is warning signs.

No solution has been implemented due to the school board and local white, private-school voting majority’s unending quest to defund public schools.

This situation in East Ramapo schools is frighteningly reminiscent of the environmental racism seen in Flint, Michigan. 96 percent of students attending public schools in the district are Black, Latinx, or Asian, and over 80 percent come from economically disadvantaged households. Last year, East Ramapo added 1,000 students to its public school rolls, nearly all of whom recently immigrated to the U.S. If it doesn’t act quickly, the state is endorsing the denial of the right to an education to thousands of children of color in this district.

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