In Bushwick, school leader claims Dept. of Education is racist

Bushwick school battle: Parents, teachers try to stop the city from forcing a third school into Bushwick Avenue building
Fighting for their right: Parents, teachers, and students stand united in opposition to the city’s plan to move a third school into a Bushwick Avenue building.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A city plan to shoehorn a third school into a building that houses an elementary school and middle school made up of mostly black and Hispanic children is racist, a leader on a Bushwick school board claimed this week.

District 14 Community Education Council president Tesa Wilson said that Department of Education’s wants to add one more school to the building that already houses PS 196 and MS 582 because the special classes her students would lose by the move were deemed unnecessary for her minority kids.

“They are going to look at my brown and black children and tell me that they can’t have a dance room or a science lab, that it’s a luxury,” said Wilson. “These extra rooms aren’t luxuries, they are rights.”

Three-hundred-and-sixty-one of the 370 students at PS 196 are black or Hispanic, with just four listed as white, according to the Department of Education. Of the 290 children at MS 582, five are white.

Some parents at the school claim that the plan add more than 300 extra students to a school that already holds more than 600 kids would never fly in a white neighborhood.

“If this school was all Caucasian people, this would not be happening,” said Maria Brunson, who has a daughter in the sixth grade at MS 582.

An anonymous letter circulating around the school echoed Brunson’s claims.

“The notion of doing away with any of these educationally-valuable programs, and the spaces within which they can breathe and function, would never be tolerated in a white, middle class community,” it reads.

But the city says that with 340 students in the elementary school and 270 students in the middle school, 207 Bushwick Ave. is only at 64 percent capacity and can hold up to 343 additional students — and the only reason it wants to start up a second elementary school inside is because having more, smaller schools is better for the community, and its stats prove that.

“Our strategy has worked, and with this new school, that progress will continue,” said Department of Education spokesman Harry Hartfield.

The city wouldn’t comment on the claim that its decision is based on race.

It’s not the first time residents have lashed out against the city regarding the plan to add the school. Earlier this week, residents and teachers complained that the two elementary schools will unnecessarily compete against each other.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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