‘Racial’ battle at John Jay HS

‘Racial’ battle at John Jay HS
Photo by Tom Callan

Teachers, students and parents of John Jay HS in Park Slope — which comprises mostly minority students from outside the neighborhood — will rally this afternoon to oppose a city plan to site an “elite” public high school in the building.

Protesters are claiming that bringing in Millennium Brooklyn, a version of a largely white college preparatory high school in Manhattan, amounts to “Apartheid education” on a campus once so notorious that it needed to be broken up into four smaller schools.

“Students are scared all the attention will go to the new school,” said Joyce Szuflita, who runs NYC School Help, a consulting firm. “They don’t want to be treated like second-class citizens.”

Since the announcement of the city plan, John Jay supporters have been circulating fliers calling for “equal funding,” “racial integration,” and the removal of metal detectors that they say stigmatize currently enrolled kids.

“Fight for our school!” hailed one flier, which directed people to this afternoon’s rally at the building, on Seventh Avenue and Fourth Street.

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) said he would likely attend.

“At a deeper level, this calls into question inequality in our school system,” he said.

But other parents believe that Millennium Brooklyn could be a solution to a long-standing neighborhood dilemma: Few Park Slope kids attend the school — even though it would no-doubt be convenient — because its lingering reputation as a hub for troublemakers.

The campus is no longer plagued by robberies, assaults and weapon possession although it does have a low graduation rate: About 69 percent of kids who attended class at the campus last year graduated.

Millennium would open next fall and share space with three small existing high schools. A middle school inside the building would be relocated to make room for it.

The new school would receive public “start-up” money — for new facilities — a fact that irks kids inside the less-than-state-of-the-art building, where teachers complain about asbestos.

“We are being left behind as Millennium 2 becomes a priority,” student Tiarah Vergara wrote in the school newspaper, Spirit Gazette.

The Department of Education says the new school will simply “create high-quality educational options for all students.”

Six percent of kids who attend class in the John Jay building are white; 36 percent are black; 50 percent are Hispanic and seven percent are Asian. More than 80 percent of the students receive free school lunches.

By contrast, 35 percent of students at the Millennium school in Manhattan are white. Most are upper-middle class.

Rally at John Jay HS (237 Seventh Ave. at Fourth Street in Park Slope), Jan. 11 at 5 pm. A public hearing will follow.