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Racist campaign over NYC school

By Monique Dols | June 17, 2005 | Page 2

NEW YORK City's Gregorio Luperón Public High School (GLHS) needs a new home.

Right now, the recently formed bilingual school is operating out of an old furniture warehouse. It has no science labs, no gymnasium and only a cramped library. Ventilation is inadequate, and out of the 19 classrooms, only four have windows.

Located in the mostly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, Luperón opened its doors 12 years ago to recently arriving Latino immigrants. What the school lacks in resources, it makes up for with dedicated students and teachers. GLHS, which has 400 students from 11 different Latin American countries, has a 92.5 attendance rate and was deemed one for the safest schools in New York City.

After several years of struggle, the Department of Education (DOE) agreed to allot money for the purchase or construction of a new building to house GLHS. One possible location is the now-closed Northeastern Academy, which the DOE recently purchased.

But some residents of the gentrified neighborhood where Northeastern Academy is located have mobilized a racist campaign against having GLHS move into their area. They claim that the presence of the school would not benefit their children and would lower property values--and that GLHS students would deface property, increase crime and cause too much noise.

Even City Council member Robert Jackson, who represents the area, has joined in the campaign against GLHS. As Jonás De León, who teaches math at GLHS and lives in Jackson's district, told Socialist Worker, "What is offensive is that Mr. Jackson is a politician who is also a member of the African-American community, and who has allowed people to use all kinds of derogatory and outright racist remarks about the largest minority group that lives here.

"He has allowed his supporters to call the Dominican people filthy thieves and gang members. And he hasn't said anything about it. Plus, he has members of his office who have been quoted in the papers referring to the Dominican community as 'those people,' as if we were an appendix to the community."

The fight for GLHS is a fight for the rights of immigrants to receive a well-funded, bilingual education. This struggle deserves the support of anyone who stands against segregation and inequality in education.

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