A group of Asian parents filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming that New York’s state-funded STEM summer program is declining to accept their children in favor of black and Hispanic students.
The parents sued New York’s Department of Education on Wednesday over the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), claiming that black and Hispanic kids are accepted to the program regardless of their income while Asian and white kids must show proof of their low-income status.
“In other words, the Hispanic child of a multi-millionaire is eligible to apply to STEP, while an Asian American child whose family earns just above the state’s low-income threshold is not, solely because of her race or ethnicity,” the lawsuit alleges.
The free program accepts about 11,000 students in 7th grade and up every year for classes at 56 colleges and medical schools across the state, the New York Post reported. The program features “instruction, exam preparation, hands-on and research training, college admissions guidance and career-focused activities such as field trips and college visits.”
The program’s website says it accepts “economically disadvantaged, or African American, Hispanic/Latino, Alaskan Native or American Indian” students.
One of the suit’s plaintiffs is Yiatin Chu of the Asian Wave Alliance, who has previously fought against alleged anti-Asian bias in New York City schools.
“This is outright discrimination against Asian-American students pursuing the STEM field,” Chu told the New York Post. “The program should be for all students or for low income students. The state is choosing which race is eligible.”
The parents are represented by both the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Equal Protection Project.
“New York shouldn’t determine who gets the opportunity to attend educational programs based on race,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Erin Wilcox said. “Such race-based decision-making violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and has been shot down at the U.S. Supreme Court numerous times.”
Back in June, the Supreme Court ruled against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action policies in a decision that had a profound effect on the admissions processes at universities across the country.
The lawsuit claims New York’s STEP program has had the same race-based policy for nearly 40 years. Policies that resemble affirmative action have come under scrutiny since the Supreme Court’s decision.
“There is no good form of racism, and the State of New York needs to stop this discrimination,” said attorney William Jacobson, the Equal Protection Project’s founder and a Cornell University law professor.