Public High School Students At City Hall to Celebrate Unanimous Passage of Sports Equity Legislation

May 29, 2019

Community Justice, L.P. v. NYC Dept of Education, News, Sports Equity

Student activists and leaders in the Fair Play coalition gathered at City Hall today to speak with media and greet Council Members today to thank them for meeting during the Fair Play Lobby Day to discuss the serious disparities in access to Public School Athletic League Sports, and urging them to vote for Intro 242-B and Reso 1010-A, legislation designed to shed light on the serious inequities in access to high school sports teams for Black and Latino youth.

The bill passed unanimously by a 47-0 vote.

For years, advocates have been questioning how the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) makes its decisions to grant teams across the city, alleging that the PSAL’s policies have resulted in an inequitable system to the detriment of Black and Latino students. Many of PSAL’s policies, procedures, resource-allocation and decision-making critera have not been publicly available.

Intro 242-B, introduced by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, will require this information to be made public, and shed further light on the inequality in access to sports amongst public high school students.

Councilmember Reynoso said: ““All students deserve equal access to sports teams and resources; it is unconscionable that this is not the case today in public schools throughout New York City. Black and Latino students are twice as likely as their peers to attend schools that don’t have a sports team. Such staggering statistics offer reason to believe that these disparities are due to systemic issues in how the DOE allocates funding and resources to schools. My bill will increase transparency between the DOE and the public by requiring the Department to produce a report on how schools are currently being funded for sports teams and resources. Using this information, I will continue to hold the Department accountable in providing all NYC students with equal access to sports. Thank you to my Council colleagues, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), and the dedicated student advocates who have partnered in this fight.”

Councilmember Mark Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education, said: “I congratulate the Fair Play coalition and my colleague Council Member Reynoso on this big win for Black and Latino students citywide in the fight for equity in after school athletics programs. Int. 242 will require the Department of Education to report on funding for after school athletics, promoting accountability and transparency, and ensuring that all public school students have access to sports. Physical activity is a necessary component of health and wellness, and sports programs and facilities should be accessible and available to all students who wish to participate.”

As part of their student-led advocacy, The Fair Play coalition led two legislative advocacy training sessions in partnership with Council Member Reynoso’s office to empower high school students from across the City to understand and participate in the local lawmaking process through lobbying. These student led efforts culminated with the Fair Play Lobby Day, during which more than 45 high school students from all five boroughs met with at least a dozen Council Members to urge them to pay attention to the serious issues in access to after school sports teams for Black and Latino youth, and to sign onto Intro 242-B.

Fair Play student leader Obrian Rosario said: “I remember the hesitation in the eyes of the city council members when the powerful youth of NYC spoke to them about their experiences with sports equity and why it matters to them on Lobby Day in December. Even then, we didn’t back down. Elected officials are elected to represent the people—and the youth are a part of these people. We made sure they heard us and got an official majority to sign onto the bill. Fast forward 5 months later and the bill is being passed. No one could ever say that your voices don’t matter. We got the bill through and we’re going to keep fighting until sports equity is no longer a dream but a reality.”

A majority of city council members support the legislation, which will be voted on by the City Council during its Stated meeting on May 29, 2019. The students will be in attendance to witness the fruits of their labor in the passage of this important new law requiring a litany of new information to be made public by the Department of Education.

The average Black or Latino high school student has access to approximately 10 fewer teams than the average student of other races. This inequity has spurred students, parents, teachers and advocates to form the Fair Play coalition to demand the system be reformed to provide equal access to all students, irrespective of race, geographic location, size of school, age of school, or language ability.

Thousands of Black and Latino New York City public high school students attend schools that offer no team sports whatsoever, and Black and Latino students are twice as likely as students of other races to attend schools without sports teams.

Intro 242-B would require the Department to post required information on their website, including data with respect to funding for coaches, referees, athletic directors, equipment, uniforms, and transportation. The bill would also require reporting on student demographic information, athletic team requests, and athletic facilities used for after school athletics.

Fair Play student leader Yousof Abdelreheem said: “I would like to thank Councilmember Antonio Reynoso for supporting us throughout the journey as well as supporting councilmembers who realized the need and impact of sports. It’s been a long, rigorous journey and this is the first step in getting equal access to sports in our schools.”

Lisa Parks, student activist and leader on the Fair Play coalition said: “I’m happy that people are actually noticing what Black and Latino kids don’t have and what we do need. I think it is very important that we should not only focus on it more, but not ignore it, and acknowledge it more. This bill being passed today will help that to happen. I am proud of myself for sharing my story with the Council Members to convince them of the importance of this issue. This year, because of our advocacy, I am finally able to run track again, which makes me believe I can do anything, and now I’m passing all my classes and doing things I never knew I could. I’m happy to have led such an impact on kids and speaking up for those who can’t.”

Melissa Iachan, Senior Staff Attorney at NYLPI and member of the Fair Play coalition said: “Today is remarkable because we see student-led advocacy truly have an impact. One year ago, the student leaders of Fair Play decided to take matters into their own hands, and with help from Council Member Reynoso’s office, put together two legislative advocacy trainings for their peers. After learning about the city’s law-making process, these inspiring students took to City Hall for the Fair Play Lobby Day, where they explained why equal access to Public School Athletic League sports is so important. And today, we are witnessing the result of students empowered to raise their voices to ensure that our democratic process works for them too. We still have a lot of work to do to increase access to sports teams for Black and Latino students, but in the interim, we should celebrate the impact  of our student leaders in passing this important bill which will shed light on the real causes of inequality in access to sports.”

IntegrateNYC Executive Director Sarah “Zaps” Zapiler said: “We celebrate action taken by our elected officials to support students’ vision for a future where fair play is possible for every student.”

David Garcia-Rosen, educator and founder of Let ‘Em Play and Fair Play Coalition Member, said: “This legislation brings us one step closer to bringing Black and Latinx students equal access to high school sports in New York City. However, it doesn’t change the harsh reality for tens of thousands of Black and Latinx students who still can’t play in the “separate and unequal” Public Schools Athletic League, and who will once again be denied access to the league in September.”

The story was covered by WNYC:

By Univision:

By Politico’s NY Education newsletter:

EQUAL SPORTS ACCESS IN SCHOOLS — The City Council unanimously passed legislation sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso that requires information on how the Public School Athletic League makes decisions to grant teams and resources across New York City to be made public and cast a light on the disparities in access to sports. Students who attend predominantly black and Latino schools have fewer sports teams and types of sports at their schools. “It’s been a long, rigorous journey and this is the first step in getting equal access to sports in our schools,” said Yousof Abdelreheem, a member of the Fair Play coalition that pushed for the bill.

…and by Bronxnet.

And by the Amsterdam News:

New York Amsterdam News

Coalition celebrates city’s sports equity legislation

Stephon Johnson

June 6, 2019

Black and Latino public school students celebrated a hard-won victory in May.

Last week, students gathered at City Hall to meet with City Council members to thank them for their support pledging to vote for Intro 242-B and Resolution 1010-A. Both bills are designed to address inequities in high school sports for Black and Latino students.

Fair Play student leader Obrian Rosario praised the city legislature for listening to their pleas and engaging with their story.

“I remember the hesitation in the eyes of the City Council members when the powerful youth of NYC spoke to them about their experiences with sports equity and why it matters to them on Lobby Day in December,” stated Rosario. “Even then, we didn’t back down. Elected officials are elected to represent the people—and the youth are a part of these people. We made sure they heard us and got an official majority to sign onto the bill. Fast forward five months later and the bill is being passed. No one could ever say that your voices don’t matter.”

Council Member Antonio Reynoso introduced Intro 242-B that requires the Public School Athletic League to make public their policies, procedures, resource allocation and decision-making criteria. Advocates have questioned PSAL’s methods that have led to inequities in the system for Black and Latino kids.

“All students deserve equal access to sports teams and resources; it is unconscionable that this is not the case today in public schools throughout New York City,” stated Reynoso. “Black and Latino students are twice as likely as their peers to attend schools that don’t have a sports team. Such staggering statistics offer reason to believe that these disparities are due to systemic issues in how the DOE allocates funding and resources to schools.”

In June 2018, the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, representing the student-led organization IntegrateNYC, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education and the Public School Athletic League accusing them of engaging in racial discrimination. According to the lawsuit, the NYPL believed that the DOE and the PSAL denied Black and Latino students equal opportunity to play high school sports. There are thousands of Black and Latino high school students who attend schools that don’t offer any team sports.

IntegrateNYC Executive Director Sarah Zapiler said the passing of this legislation could be attributed directly to the people it affects.

“We celebrate action taken by our elected officials to support students’ vision for a future where fair play is possible for every student,” stated Zapiler.

According to the Fair Play Coalition, the average Black or Latino high school student has access to approximately 10 fewer teams than the average student of other races. Council Member Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Education, congratulated Reynoso and the coalition on the legislation and emphasized the importance of transparency in all aspects of the education system.

“Intro 242-B will require the Department of Education to report on funding for after school athletics, promoting accountability and transparency, and ensuring that all public school students have access to sports,” said Treyger. “Physical activity is a necessary component of health and wellness, and sports programs and facilities should be accessible and available to all students who wish to participate.”

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