Are Minority Students at Larchmont School Being Disproportionately Assigned to Same Class?

A federal agency found that the Mamaroneck School District assigned minority students disproportionately to one kindergarten class.


Update: Superintendent of Mamaroneck Schools Dr. Robert Shaps has put up a video Youtube, in response to the incident.  Please click to the right of this article to watch.

On the first day of school last fall, Rina Jimenez noticed that there was something different about her son, Jared’s, kindergarten class at .

Of the 20 children in Ms. Donna Russell’s Class #1, approximately 12 were racial minorities of either Hispanic, Asian or African-American descent, a disproportionately higher number than in most classrooms, and suggestive of an alarming fact: was the school lumping kids together based on racial background?

Both Rina—who is Hispanic—and another parent of a mixed race Hispanic child in the same class, approached school officials with their concerns, but Rina said she didn’t feel that they were taken seriously by the administration.  In a letter dated Oct. 28, 2011, Rina writes, “in the three kindergarten classes unaffected by racial segregation, the white population is between 85-90% of a total of 72 students enrolled in kindergarten. In the racially segregated class, the white population is 28% and the Hispanic population is 39%.”  Hispanic students compromise approximately 17 percent of the total number of students at Central School.

When the other parent’s child was then allowed to transfer to Chatsworth Avenue School and Rina’s request for a transfer was denied, she filed a complaint in December 2011 with the United States Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights (OCR). Her allegations against the district included, among other things, that they disproportionately assigned minority residents of Larchmont Acres East—a rental complex that she termed a “housing project” in the eyes of the district—to Russell’s class.

After an almost yearlong investigation of kindergarten students at Central utilizing data from school years 2010-11 and 2011-12, the OCR concluded on August 17, 2012 that the District had applied its criteria “inconsistently and subjectively,” and that non-white students had, in fact, been disproportionately assigned to Class #1 for both school years.  All kindergarten students residing in —two Hispanic and one African-American—were assigned to Class #1, the OCR report found, although school officials denied that they had access to student’s race prior to their assignments, they did, however, have access to their addresses.

Although Larchmont Patch was unable to obtain a copy of the District’s policy for kindergarten placement at press time, the letter from the OCR said, “The District's written policy for assigning students to classes, Policy No. 5154.1, states that when assigning students to classes, the building principal will consider a student's age; social, emotional and physical maturity; and achievement in relation to individual ability… School staff stated that the four kindergarten teachers then meet to divide the incoming kindergarten students into four equally balanced class groups, based on the following criteria: gender, birthdate, daycare/nursery, and special needs of the student, if any.”

The letter goes on to say that the principal—in this case Carol Priore—ultimately made the final determination as to kindergarten assignments, although she would often base her decisions on teacher recommendations.

In response to the complaint, the District released a statement yesterday:

“As a school district, we value the rich diversity of our community, families, and staff and believe it is what makes our school district special. The District has never considered ‘self-reporting’ race/ethnicity data as part of the class placement process...OCR concluded that the District did not discriminate against students based on its kindergarten class placement procedures at Central School. We feel comfortable with our current kindergarten class placement process and guidelines used to assign students to classes.”

A copy of the letter, in its entirety, sent out to parents yesterday can be viewed by clicking to the right of the article above.

Despite the District’s assertion that they were not at fault, Norman Siegel, an attorney and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, disagrees.

“The letter was disappointing,” he said, continuing, “by not informing the community, it makes it look like they did something wrong.”

Despite the inaccuracies he claimed are perpetuated in the letter by the District, he said, “I’m hoping that the school system realizes they have a problem and begin to remedy it. This should send a strong message throughout the state that we won’t tolerate racial discrimination in the public schools.”

The District, as part of a negotiated agreement with the OCR, agreed to submit a written list of its methods for assigning students to kindergarten classes at Central School.  The District must also submit, by Sept. 30, a breakdown of students assigned to kindergarten classes by race and national origin, with a follow-up due on Sept. 30, 2013.

Although for now the OCR complaint is concentrated only on kindergarteners, Rina would like the OCR to continue their investigations throughout the school.

“There is no review in the other grades—I think they need to protect these children along the way,” she said.

As for her son, Rina hopes to eventually transfer him to Scarsdale school district.

“It’s probably hard for him to get stress-free education at this point,” she said, "It's very upsetting."

Eleanor Sherman October 01, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Mark October 01, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Lets see Tom words and phrases like "ilk" "people like you" and "your type" sounds like you harbor some phobias! Maybe you should go stand with the administration. You would fit in perfectly. As far as intent....there is intent. Keep your eyes on the horizon
Mark October 01, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Question for all. If you were driving down a highway doing the speed limit and you pressed on the accelerator/gas and get pulled over for doing 70 in a 55mph posted zone is there intent.....speeding?
Paula Scharf Kohn October 01, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I personally wrote about Mr. Lus Quntos who is a a very angry man who states his credentials (MSW) to give him recognition. Anyone can go onto nysed.gov website and click on professional credentials and you will see that mr. Quintos is not a licensed MSW from NYS Board of Professional Licensure. He loves to make havoc and get kudos for his advocacy. But he is not a NYS Licensed MSW but perhaps he did finish a MSW degree.
tom October 02, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I knew it wouldn't be long that someone "like yourself" would try to inject some racial insinuation into my comments. Let me tell you something, Mark, I grew up in Larchmont and attended the schools in the district. I know the people there - still do, fact. The people are decent, hard-working middle and upper middle class, hardworking people who want only to provide a nice life for their families. I resent the despicable and reprehensible accusations that the town is racist or anything of the sort. You want to accuse me of using racist buzzwords? Everything you have been writing has been with the intent to create the sense that there exists racism in e community. So yeah,you and your "ilk" can take your race-baiting hate speech somewhere else. You're barking up the wrong tree here, bud. And if you like to meet in person and discuss this furer I would be more than happy to meet your the LT with all the or racists from Larchmont, you puts.
tom October 02, 2012 at 12:55 AM
You have a lot of nerve to make these accusations. I know your type (yes "your type") and you are nothing more than a loser with a lot of time on your hands. How dare you make these accusations. Do you live in the town. If so, give me one example that you have witnessed involving racism in the town. I don't care if you are red, yellow, black or brown - your "type" transcends color and only exist to create hatred and dissension. Your comments are despicable.
tom October 02, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Eleanor - you are clearly a whack job. Go save a Whale or something.
Mark October 02, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Paula you're mixing apples and oranges.
Paula Scharf Kohn October 02, 2012 at 02:06 AM
I don't think I am mixing those fruits. Mr. Quiros presents himself as an MSW expert, and if he had such expertise. why isn't hr licensed by NYSED Professional Licence Division to be a Social Worker?
Mark October 02, 2012 at 02:39 AM
But what does it have to do with the issue of segregation at Central?
John October 02, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Oh dear, the descent into sophistry. The correct driving analogy would be that you are driving 4 passengers, all talking at once about the driving directions, the scenery and whether you left the stove on at home. You don't notice that you are going downhill and the car goes over the speed limit. Was there intent to speed? Postscript: the traffic cop gives a ticket (the radar gun was activated) but suggests you tell the judge. You have a clean driving record. The judge cancels the points and reduces the fine but warns you to pay more attention to the road.
Steve Springer October 02, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Let the Jury decide!
Steve Springer October 02, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Here's another one Mark. I'll make this idiot simple for our lawyer friend John. Russian Roulette. You have a revolver and you observe all the chambers are empty. You put a single bullet into a chamber, so that of the 6 chambers only one chamber contains a bullet. There is a 1 out of 6 chance that if you pull the trigger you will fire a bullet. You point the gun directly at a person at point blank range and pull the trigger. Whoops the gun fires the bullet. The individual is dead. Intent? You were fully aware of your actions!
Steve Springer October 02, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Actually, I'll provide you with the answer. It was a Statistical Anomaly.
John October 02, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Talk about missing the point. An analogy needs to reflect the facts if the real life story it is being used to illustrate, otherwise it is sophistry. The OCR report most clearly does not say there was intent. It says they should have noticed the anomaly and dealt with it which is quite different from e.g. Brown vs Board. Nor has anyone else shown any proof of intent. Is that idiot simple enough for you?
Steve Springer October 02, 2012 at 02:41 PM
First of all Anomaly is a word Shap used to mislead the community. The OCR found discrimination for the last 2 years 2010-2012...that my friend is no anomaly.
Mary Too October 02, 2012 at 03:34 PM
. The mere fact that the ratio of minority to white children in that single class was so high clearly indicates to me that this was no anomaly. .
John October 02, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Actually the OCR found that the district had failed to address the higher than statistic average of minority children in the class and required the district to put procedures inlato prevent it happening again. What the OCR did not document or prove was an intent to segregate. Given the OCR's history it is inconceivable that it would have glossed over this if there had been anything close to a case for intent. Indeed the OCR also failed to establish that there had been any discrimination in terms of resources. As a practical manner since one of the 4 teachers who made the class assignments is a minority person that teacher's silence on the matter is deafening This is not a 1950s segregation scandal.
Jonathan Sacks October 02, 2012 at 04:09 PM
The OCR report was also incorrect in the reporting of the '10-11 school year class makeup, the kindergartens were in fact balanced that year. OCR even acknowledged the errors in the report to the district, but they stated that they do not revise findings. The worst part of all this is that race WILL NOT become part of the criteria and the schools system will not be able to take into account parents requests and classes will be done simply by blind lottery. Ms. Jimenez has done a great disservice to the community and I fear there will be backlash against the Hispanic population when all the facts finally come out for her actions. BTW: The teachers only saw the initials of the children on the files when reviewing for class placement and there was no address listed, makes it tough to discriminate. There is no smoking gun. See more information in my blog post at: http://larchmont.patch.com/blog_posts/what-do-we-do-about-the-ocr-complaint-at-central-school
Steve Springer October 02, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Tell it to the Jury....Sell it to the jury. You have loads of credibility issues my friend.
Ladyofspain October 04, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I perceive your comments as a potential threat, inflammatory and intimidation aimed at the Hispanic population which I find offensive and your comments are bullying. No one is posting to your blog site because they disagree with your comments. I think this is a time for "healing" that we all should be considering. We can't change what was, but we can move forward and learn from this experience. To continue inflammatory remarks about Hispanics, or Ms. Jimenez is only to add fuel to the fire that was already determined by OCR. I do believe that the Board and Superintendent should institute a "Diversity Training Program" to educate people. It's time to heal brother.
Ladyofspain October 04, 2012 at 03:24 AM
My recent comments were in response to Mr. Sacks.
Mary Too October 04, 2012 at 03:49 AM
. Here's that "other" problem surfacing again. I would not be surprised to see more lawsuits along these lines: http://theloopny.com/blog/11712/ .
Ladyofspain October 04, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Oh just great....another OCR Claim about this district violating another person's civil rights. Where are our educational attorney's? Don't these administrators have a clue? I guess not. Thanks Mary for sharing.
Harold1968 October 15, 2012 at 08:01 PM
"The white population is between 85-90% of a total of 72 students enrolled in kindergarten. In the racially segregated class, the white population is 28% and the Hispanic population is 39%.” I'm no statistician but those numbers don't make sense. Students should be randomly selected. The only exception should be for siblings to be separated if they want to be.
savylilmomma October 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I'm African-American. I have been in the district for several years. I have two daughters, bi-racial, who have gone through the elementary schools, middle school, and now one in the high school. We struggled in the elementary school with numerous racially driven issues. Its subtle but ever present. Doesn't suprise me at all. I now have a four year old son with mild autism at the Central school in Pre-K. I will definitely be on guard when Kindergarten assignments approach. Not surprised at all.
Mary Too October 16, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Savylilmomma, stay on the alert with your 4 year old. The first step to resolving an issue is to acknowledge that it exists, which is something the current administration steadfastly refuses to do. .
jj October 17, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Unfortunately, the community should have turned out and requested the removal of the principal and the others that participated in a coverup. When the issues eventually affect the real estate market, taxes, etc. then maybe we will see change. Until then keep chipping away.
Mary Too October 17, 2012 at 04:40 AM
SRC March 11, 2013 at 11:17 PM
John Spitzer: You misunderstood my whole point. Yes its a public school system. The point being that being that she is NOT paying into the system, she should be grateful that she lives in a country where her child is getting a FREE Education instead of bickering about being in a class with other minority children. So instead, she chose to make a big stink in which I 100% feel that she shouldnt be. My son went to MAS camp. I paid the whole thing. No help, no handout and he was one of the very few white kids in the camp. Did I bicker and complain? NO. Neither should she. Understand this also....I can not walk into Wingfoot country club and say hey ya know, I cant afford that payment to belong to this club...can I pay X instead? Point being there are no handouts to join a club like that, yet most of the students that went to MAS camp got handouts


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