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Feds monitoring elementary school in Mamaroneck for segregating students

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS AmNews Staff | 9/21/2012, 11:53 a.m.

It's been nearly 60 years since the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education, which effectively marked the end of segregation in public schools, but Central Elementary School in upscale Mamaroneck is under fire for just that. A federal probe has found that the kindergarten classes at the school were assigned along racial lines for two consecutive years. Of the four kindergarten classes, three were predominantly white while one had predominantly minority students.

Mom Rina Jimenez lays the blame at the feet of Central's principal, Carol Piore, and School Superintendent Robert Shaps and has called for them to step down. Jimenez charges that Shaps failed to thoroughly investigate the matter when she first complained about the classes to the school board last year.

The school yearbook shows the racial composition, but the school says that the apparent segregation was not done on purpose. The school has agreed to federal monitoring.

An investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that district placement procedures were not followed. The office examined two years of data (2010-11 and 2011-12) and determined that minority students were disproportionately assigned to one class when compared to the overall kindergarten student body by race and ethnicity in both years. Of the four kindergarten classes, the one in question had 13 minority students, more than the minority students in the other three classes combined. During both years, the class also had a Black teacher.

In a video released by the school district, Shaps applauds the diversity of the school district and defends the school's actions, calling the OCR's report on the two years of class placement a "statistical anomaly." He also refutes the OCR's finding that the "anomaly" occurred as a result of the school not following placement process, citing the unique circumstances that resulted in the "anomaly" as not based on race or ethnicity.

The district released the following statement in response:

"OCR found that our class placement guidelines are in fact race-neutral. Per our resolution agreement with OCR, we will address their identified compliance concerns limited to clearly articulating in writing our current procedures and utilizing the procedures in a consistent and clear manner."

The school will submit to monitoring; with the district reporting the number of students assigned to class by race and ethnicity by Sept. 30 and again for the 2013-14 school year.

In the meantime, Jimenez is asking the district to transfer her son.