August 29th, 2012
NAACP files civil rights lawsuit against NECSD
Connie Frazier, NAACP educational consultant; Wilbur Aldridge, Hudson Valley Regional Director of the NAACP; and NAACP consultant Dr. Oscar Cohen announce that the NAACP will move forward with a lawsuit against the NECSD.
NEWBURGH - “The numbers don’t lie.”
According to Wilbur Aldridge, Hudson Valley Regional Director of the NAACP and several others, their rippling effects also mandate change. A large step in that process came on Thursday night at Newburgh’s City Hall when it was announced that the NAACP will be filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Newburgh Enlarged School District.
Newburgh Schools Superintendent Ralph Pizzo and school board President Dawn Fucheck will be named as defendants in the suit, which will be done in White Plains Federal Court. The premise lies in unjust treatment of African Americans and other minority children. The specifics run deep.
Red flags initially went up when proof of excessive class-cutting and low graduation rates by the 2008-09 and 2009-10 Newburgh Free Academy boy’s basketball teams surfaced in March of 2011. Upon further investigation, the NAACP discovered the inequities were not confined to the boys’ hoops teams. According to records the District and state gave them, blaring discrepancies existed, such as low graduation rates of blacks and minorities, lower test scores, and higher suspension rates. Although compliant with surrendering data, the District was hesitant to meet outside of a community-based setting.
“The fact that they said they were not interested in meeting one-on-one and not open to help, we knew there were problems,” said Aldridge.
Those issues appear to have a deep history, laden with neglect and denial. Another component of the lawsuit is based on a class action suit by the NAACP against the NECSD back on November 15, 1974. The terms questioned the district’s ability to provide equal opportunities to all students. Years later the district was mandated to not suspend students without specific safeguards. Many in attendance on Thursday seemed to know nothing about that 70s decision.
“What we learned initially is the Newburgh School District is not going to be forthcoming with information on the basketball scandal; we still have not received adequate details explaining that incident that has been life-changing for many young people,” said Dr. Oscar Cohen, a NAACP Educational Consultant. “It’s not that we are not asking for a dialogue; we are being denied one.”
One of the suit’s requirements is a signature from a parent in the district. Cynthia Fountain, a parent and grandparent to nine children in the district, was on hand to pen her name to several documents.
“I am doing this because there was enough youth being challenged in this district to get an education,” said Fountain. “It is unfair to our community, and whenever I tried to ask questions about it, I was just thrown to the curb.” She added, “I have always felt I have a responsibility to all children in this district.”
Specifics relating to the time table of the lawsuit remain unclear; however, in the interim, Aldridge urged those in attendance to speak out at school board meetings, follow up on the school progress of all of their family members and attend upcoming NAACP meetings. The Newburgh-Highland Branch will be kept informed about the progress of the suit, and Aldridge, along with his consultants, are expected to return some time next month with further details.
“We would not be doing this if we didn’t think we could win,” said Aldridge. “The material is all there, and the numbers, that were supplied by the school district, don’t lie.”