Utica School District Attorney on Lawsuit- It’s The State Suing Itself
The attorney for the Utica City School District, Don Gerace, was on First News with Keeler on Tuesday and said the State's civil rights claim against Proctor High School is like the 'State is suing itself."
The claim charges that Utica's Proctor High School has violated the rights of refugees between the ages of 17 and 21 by not providing them with a sound education. It's the first time in New York that a school district has been named in a suit like this one filed with the federal government. Gerace said normally, issues such as this one involving students would have been handled by the State Education Department.
The students, who come from parts of the world that provide no education base what so ever, were sent through programs set up by BOCES and the Refugee Center in Utica in an effort to escalate their learning experience with the ultimate goal of earning a GED and possibly gaining a vocational opportunity.
60% of the students at Utica Proctor are minorities and the state has severely underfunded this district.
Local political leaders have charged that the lawsuit filed by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was political. Senator Joseph Griffo called he suit "ridiculous" and said that the AG should focus on crime instead of going after a district like Utica which "is doing the best it can with limited resources."
Ironically, Utica is part of two suits against New York State in which underfunded school districts are suing over the lack of proper funding. Some believe the claim filed by Schneiderman is in retaliation to those two actions.
Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide Schools Finance Consortium suggested that maybe it's New York State that is violating the constitutional rights of these students. "60% of the students at Utica Proctor are minorities and the state has severely underfunded this district. Maybe it's the state that is violating these kids' constitutional right to a basic education."
Gerace said the "school district as well as he city have embraced its immigrant population." He cited the fact that over 40 languages are spoken in the school and that 8 of the last 10 valedictorians and salutatorians at Proctor have actually been immigrants who have contributed greatly to the city.
"This is slap in the face of the city of Utica, the school district, all of its employees, the parents and the region."
Listen to Gerace's complete interview on Keeler: