Monday, January 08, 2007

Asian American parent & youth organizations support School Desegregation and Equity in Supreme Court's Seattle/Louisville Cases; Boston's CAPAY

As I and other San Francisco School board members work towards improving our future equity and desegregation plans for our 57,000 public school students, a number of community groups are starting to build support nationwide for our work here and in other urban centers.
Last month Asian American organizations from San Francisco to New York filed a 'friends of the court' [amici curiae] brief to weigh in on the US Supreme Court's arguments in the Seattle and Louisville school desegregation cases.
Besides SF's Chinese for Affirmative Action and NY's AALDEF [Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund], other 'amici' include - Asian Americans United, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership, Boston Asian Youth Essential Service, Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families,
Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth, Detroit Asian Youth Project, Filipinos for Affirmative Action, Japanese Community Youth Council, One Lowell, Providence Youth Student Movement South Asian Youth Action!, and United Chinese Association of Brooklyn.

Lead attorney for the Asian American organizations, is former SF Asian Law Caucus attorney Khin Mai Aung, now with AALDEF. From AALDEF's December press release:
Civil rights groups Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and CAA Chinese for Affirmative Action/Center for Asian American Advocacy asserted a compelling interest for the nation’s public schools to actively ensure equal access to quality education and a diverse learning environment. In both cases, locally elected school boards in Seattle, Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky had voluntarily adopted measures to reverse racial segregation in their public schools, and considered race in their cities’ kindergarten to 12th-grade school assignments. Similarly, in San Francisco, where more than 50% of public school students are Asian American, School Board Commissioners would also like to propose a race-conscious student assignment plan that would include considerations of race in a narrowly tailored manner.

CAA, which joined AALDEF in filing an amicus brief with the High Court, represents Chinese American parents and children who favor such an approach.

AALDEF Staff Attorney Khin Mai Aung said, “Asian American students in particular rely on the invaluable benefits of racially integrated public schools, which more accurately reflect their communities and greater U.S. society. If the Court were to bar school districts from desegregating their schools, the quality of education for Asian American children would be significantly harmed. AALDEF supports efforts by districts nationwide to consider race and other factors in order to fulfill the promise of educational equity embodied by the Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, more than 50 years ago.”

CAA Policy Advocate Christina Wong said, “In many of San Francisco’s schools, racial isolation has increased in the absence of race considerations in student assignment plans. Our current school assignment process has failed to provide our children with a racially integrated environment. CAA supports the voluntary use of race and ethnicity as a factor in the school assignment process to ensure that thousands of our city’s students receive a well-rounded education.”

Cindy Choy, a parent leader with the Visitacion Valley Parents Association, said: “As a parent and resident of one of San Francisco’s most diverse neighborhoods, I’ve witnessed firsthand how important it is for children to learn in a racially diverse environment. It would be easy to have my only daughter go to a school with a majority of Chinese students like herself but that would not allow her to learn and benefit from other groups of people. ...

Boston's Youth Organizing with CAPAY
Last year I visited various Boston social justice organizations, including the Asian American Resource Workshop, Chinese Progressive Association, U Mass Boston's Ethnic Studies programs, and a progressive Asian American youth organizing group recommended by UMass's Peter Kiang called CAPAY -Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth. CAPAY is one of the organizations that support the AALDEF/CAA brief in favor of civil rights and desegregation.

I attended one of CAPAY's workshops and a summer picnic with activist supporters Sophia Kim and Gee Quach and was impressed with the dynamic organization and the young folks that make it strong. One of my former TA's Anjela Wong, now finishing her EdD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, was a former CAPAY leader.

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