NYC schools criticized for restricting access to sports for POC students

Pictured here is a Fort Hamilton-Lincoln PSAL football game. A civil rights complaint alleges that NYC Public Schools’ recent revocation of a policy providing “guaranteed individual access” to sports has disproportionately deprived Black and Latino students of opportunities to participate in athletic programs. Photo: Gregory Payan/AP

A civil rights complaint has been filed against the New York City Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL), alleging that recent policy changes have significantly reduced access to sports for Black and Latino students.

The complaint, led by David Garcia-Rosen, director of school culture and athletics at the Bronx Academy of Letters, alleges that a decision made in the fall of 2023 to eliminate “guaranteed individual access” to sports teams has disproportionately affected minority students .

In the spring of 2023, the NYC Public Schools initiated a policy that allowed all students, regardless of the school they attended, to try out for one of the 51 sports teams offered by the PSAL. This policy change was celebrated as a major step toward equality, allowing 100 percent of Black and Hispanic students access to sports.

However, in the fall of 2023, the policy was abruptly rescinded, limiting access to students from schools with fewer than six sports teams. This shift leaves only 8 percent of Black and Latino students with the same level of access they briefly enjoyed.

The complaint was filed on April 17, 2024, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin. It details the impact of the policy change, noting that 184,680 Black and Latino students have lost access to the broader offering of PSAL sports teams.

The current disparity in access is stark: Students at schools with 80 to 100 percent Black and Latino populations have access to an average of 13 teams, while students at schools with 0 to 20 percent Black and Latino populations have access to 28 teams.

Garcia-Rosen will provide public testimony on the issue Thursday evening at the Panel For Education Policy meeting, which is expected to be attended by NYC Schools Chancellor Banks. The complaint calls for a return to the Spring 2023 policy of “Guaranteed Individual Access” for all students.

Students and teachers have expressed disappointment and frustration over the policy’s rollback. Jayla Jerez, a 10th grader at the Bronx Academy of Letters, shared her personal setback because she had been able to play basketball through the individual access program but was now at risk of losing her opportunity to play next year.