Thursday, June 22, 2023

Lawsuit filed to block the re-location of West Side High School and the co-location of Brownsville Academy -

This lawsuit filed today is based on many of the same arguments as a previous lawsuit filed in March to block the co-locations of two charter schools in Brooklyn and Queens.  These proposals do not take into account the need to lower class size to the levels required by the new class size law; moreover the Educational Impact Statements do not  actually analyze the likely impact on the education of these students, many of them over-aged and under-credited if this re-location and co-location occur, especially those students with special needs.  The votes of the PEP to approve these changes also violated Open Meetings Law in several ways.  The press release and links to all the legal filings are below.


For immediate release: Thursday, June 22, 2023

 More information: Laura Barbieri,, 914-819-3387

Sarah Frank,, 617-838-2032


Lawsuit filed to block the re-location of West Side High School

and the co-location of Brownsville Academy -

both transfer schools with vulnerable overage and undercredited students


Today, Thursday, June 22, 2023, a lawsuit was filed in the New York State Supreme Court on behalf of parents, students, and teachers to prevent the NYC Department of Education from forcing the Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School from moving across town to a smaller building and to block Brownsville Academy from having to share its building with another school,  Aspirations Diploma Plus High School.  

Both of these schools are transfer schools, designed to ensure that vulnerable, over-aged and under-credited students have the support they need to remain in school through graduation. Many of these students have already dropped out of school once or are at increased risk of dropping out in the future, so any negative change in their learning environment jeopardizes their life chances.

The lawsuit, filed by the pro bono law firm Advocates for Justice, focuses on the inadequacy of the Educational Impact Statements [EIS’s] that the NYC Department of Education is required to prepare in advance of the votes by the Panel for Education Policy to approve these changes in school utilization that occurred on April 19, 2023, and May 1, 2023.

Instead, both EIS’s for these proposed changes in school utilization explicitly assumed that current class sizes at both schools would continue indefinitely, even though half of the classes at Brownsville Academy and more than half of the classes at Edwards A. Reynolds West Side High School are larger than the cap of 25 students per class required by the new state class size law, to be phased in over five years.

In addition, students with disabilities in both schools will likely lose their dedicated rooms for mandated services in these new, far more limited spaces. Both schools have very high percentages of such students: 43% at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High school and 26% of the students at Brownsville Academy have disabilities.

The failure of the EIS’s to analyze the profound educational impacts of these changes is a clear violation of state education law, and in an innovative legal strategy, the lawsuit also argues that the deprivation of critical space from students  with disabilities would cause  a disparate impact on these vulnerable students, in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. 

Most egregiously, perhaps, is how the students at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School will be deprived of their on-site GED program, their full-size gym, the Ryan health care center, and the LYFE day-care center, designed to take care of the young children of these overaged students while they are attending school.  Yet the DOE fails to assess the likely negative educational impacts of these profound losses, or even acknowledge them in the EIS.

Also highly questionable is the way in which the DOE and certain members of the Panel for Educational Policy  ignored their obligations under the Open Meetings Law (OML). Specifically, the law requires that all voting by members of public bodies must be publicly performed. However, many of the Mayor-appointed PEP members failed to turn on their cameras during the meetings that approved these changes in school utilization, which should nullify their votes. In addition, the DOE failed to record the first several hours of the PEP meeting on May 1, which is  also an OML violation.   Together, these violations call into question whether these PEP proceedings or their votes were legally valid.

State Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said: ““I have long been concerned about the plan to re-site Aspirations Diploma Plus and co-locate it with Brownsville Academy High School. Though well-intentioned, the proposal would harm two communities. Aspirations is the only transfer school in Crown Heights, and I fear they will lose scholars who are not willing to travel to Brownsville. I also share the concerns of the staff at Brownsville Academy, who are worried about the potentially drastic reduction in the number of rooms. The co-location process would deprive the Brownsville Academy of the space currently being used for counseling, an internship program, and their very successful mentoring services. Brownsville Academy has served the community and its students well, consistently ranking in the top 10 in graduation rates, attendance, and career readiness for transfer schools in the city. The potential impact on the student-to-teacher ratio and the reduction of services would have an adverse impact on some of Brooklyn’s most vulnerable students.”

“I strongly support West Side High School staying where it is and appreciate the effort by Advocates for Justice to halt the move,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “It is inequitable to take away from the student population the LYFE Center, the wellness and health center, the large gym and field, and the kitchen. If the TYWLS building is not adequate to meet the needs of its current student population, then it cannot be adequate for the students now at West Side High School.”

“The relocation of West Side High School and the co-location of Brownsville Academy presents a number of challenges to the families, students, and teachers in both schools.” Said New York City Council Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. “Students within these schools have either dropped out once before or require special accommodations to ensure they receive a quality education. The Department’s relocation plan does not take those factors into consideration and their decision further jeopardizes the educational prospects of the students within these schools. I urge the Department to reconsider this decision and to work with both schools to find a compromise that focuses on the students rather than the ideal location.”

Added Ashley Norman, a plaintiff, a parent of a current student at West Side High School and herself a graduate of the school: “West Side has paved the way for so many students in its time. Myself and everyone I know felt as if dropping out would be the best option, until we went to this school. They do their best to meet you where you are and push you for greatness. This school is so important for young parents. You can receive your education, have your child cared for, and receive not only mental health care but your physical healthcare as well in the Ryan Center -things that being a young parent are hard to juggle. I decided to participate in this lawsuit because I also worry about the potential for gang violence on the East side that our kids might be exposed to. I believe this school NEEDS to stay here for the benefit and more importantly the safety of our community.”

Lucie Gaba, a plaintiff and parent at Brownsville Academy commented: “Before attending Brownsville, my son attended another high school where he struggled with attendance issues and with being on time. Since switching schools, his attendance has improved and the wonderful staff have inspired him to become an active member of the school community.  Brownsville Academy has helped my son improve his academics greatly. I am worried that the co-location will make it harder for him and his friends to get the dedicated help they have come to count on. English is his second language and he receives extra services for this reason. I am very concerned that if the co-location happens, the increased crowding will cause him to lose these services.”

Grisslet Rodriguez, plaintiff and parent of a current West Side High School student, said: “I’m participating in this lawsuit because it is the right thing to do for all of the students in West Side High School. I want to be a voice for my son and all the West Side students since their voices are not being heard. My concern is that if our students are moved to another location, the outcome is going to be devastating. It will have a negative impact on a minority group that already struggles. Students might drop out, have emotional damage, and more mental health challenges. My top concern is the lack of safety in the neighborhood that is on the East side and is dangerous. The new location across town will require many students, including my son, to take a bus and a train, which is a longer commute. Health-wise, there is no gym and no clinic, which is so important for the health, well-being, and growth of the students. The daycare center is crucial to keep the young mothers in school. I hope students can remain in West Side High School, where they feel safe. These students have been through a lot, and we are so proud of them and happy that they found a place where they feel they belong.”

Sarah Frank, teacher at West Side High School and a plaintiff, said: “We have been pushing back on this relocation from the moment it was announced because as a transfer school, we know our vulnerable students need access to smaller classes and additional services and support.  Our current building was specifically designed for West Side High School in the 1990s to have an on-site daycare and health clinic. Our Public School Athletic League teams play in our beautiful gym and the field adjacent to the school. The building we are being relocated to on the East Side has none of these resources, and traveling to other locations for daycare, healthcare, and athletics is a huge barrier for our students. While we have had enrollment struggles, our enrollment has grown tremendously in the last few months. The new space will not allow us to meaningfully lower class size and will not afford the space for small groups and other social-emotional supports we have always offered our students, particularly the nearly 50% of our special needs population with IEPs. Our students do not gain anything from this move, they only lose.”

Marissa Moore, a plaintiff, and parent at Brownsville Academy HS pointed out: “Brownsville Academy has provided my son with a rigorous academic experience along with rich social emotional support which is so needed coming out of the pandemic. Under the co-location proposal, I am concerned that BAHS will become overcrowded and offer fewer services just like the larger schools which failed to serve him previously.”

Concluded Hon. Carmen Quinones, President of the Frederick Douglass Houses Association where many of the students who attend West Side High School live, “This is not what Justice looks like: putting a target on our children's back and making them choose to drop out of school or die trying!”

Here are the Memo of Law ; Verified Petition, and affidavits from Lucie Idiamey-Gaba, Sarah Frank, Anneris Fernandez , Chance Santiago, Marissa-Moore, Grisslet Rodriguez, Ashley Norman, and Leonie Haimson.



Diana Rivera said...

I'm so happy a law suit was filed. A wrong decision was made by the PEP Panel. Hopefully it will be corrected. West Side High School deserves to stay where it is.

Anonymous said...

There should be a lawsuit against every co-located charter school, in every public building.