A tipster named Shireen alerted us to the unusual situation of 11 year old Nikita Rau, who had earned entry into a “gifted and talented” school in Brooklyn, called the Mark Twain School, or IS 239. Nikita was denied admission to the school based on the school’s archaic racial quotas, established in 1974, which require that exactly 60% of the school be white, and 40% be composed of minorities. At the time, the quota reflected the demographics of the area; today, minorities comprise more than 40% of the local population — and have little trouble getting the test scores to earn admission to the school. The 40% minimum has, over time, become a maximum quota.
The New York Post covered the story yesterday in sensationalistic terms: “NOT WHITE ENOUGH: Brilliant Girl Cheated By School Quota.” And today they follow up with a story on the Chancellor of Schools, Joel Klein, who has indicated that he supports Nikita Rau’s right to study at IS 239. (They also have a colorfully written editorial on the subject, entitled, “Cockamamie Quota”.)
Despite his opposition to the quota, Chancellor Klein has thus far declined to act, mainly because the Supreme Court is about to rule on two major desegregation cases elsewhere in the country, which could potentially vitiate federal programs aimed at achieving racial balance or diversity in primary and secondary schools. If government-enforced racial diversity is thrown out (and many commentators think it will be, given the current conservative leaning of the Supreme Court), it will be relatively straightforward to throw out the old quota in Coney Island.
Of course, one could argue that the quota at this school should just be thrown out irrespective of what the Supreme Court decides in the cases in Seattle and Louisville — simply because excluding Nikita Rau was never the intention of the judge who made the 1974 ruling that set up the quota in the first place.
Finally, it does strike me as an interesting irony that at the college level, East and South Asians are not considered “underrepresented minorities,” while in this case, Nikita Rau is clearly being defined as a “minority” student.
I’m curious to hear where readers are on this issue of quotas, desegregation, and diversity, specifically with regard to how it affects South Asian students in primary and secondary schools (K-12).