The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Utica City School District have reached an agreement that protects immigrant students' rights to equal educational opportunities.

Under the agreement, the district agrees to proactively engage with all English language learner students and establish high school as the default education choice for all students.  Students who don't want to attend high school must opt-out.

The four-year agreement contains the following provisions the district must follow:

  • Contact all school-age students the refugee center has documented over the last four years who aren’t enrolled in the high school and explain to them their right to enroll. They must obtain a written waiver for every student who chooses not to enroll in high school.
  • Meet every new English language learner student who goes to the refugee center along with an interpreter. They must explain to students their right to attend the high school, how alternate programs are different, and obtain a written waiver from every student who doesn’t want to enroll.
  • Undergo public education efforts at 17 locations in Utica in five languages advising English language learners about their right to attend high school and how to contact the district.
  • Follow up every year with school-age English language learner students enrolled in a GED program and again offer them the chance to transfer to the high school and obtain a written record if they opt-out.
  • Annually train all people involved in school registration in Utica on laws and policies regarding properly enrolling English language learner students.
  • Maintain policies and trainings that comply with these laws and policies.
  • Appoint a compliance coordinator to comply with the settlement.
  • Permit the six students who filed the lawsuit the chance to attend school past their 21st birthday to compensate for the time they were wrongly denied their education

The NYCLU and the State Attorney General's Office had sued the Utica School District on behalf of six refugee students who claimed they were excluded from attending Proctor High School.

“Today’s agreement recognizes that no child in New York should be shortchanged on their education,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “No one benefits when kids who have come to New York fleeing violence or poverty are denied their shot at the American dream. We hope the new policies for Utica will serve as a model for change for other districts that discriminate against immigrant children.”

The AG's lawsuit is still pending

Senator Joseph Griffo and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi say they're extremely disappointed that the Attorney General's Office plans to push forward with a similar lawsuit regarding some of the same allegations.  They say it's a true waste of state resources and of school district officials’ valuable time to continue the litigation.