Violence in nation’s largest public school district is in the spotlight. A lawsuit filed on Thursday accuses the New York City public school system of denying students the right to a safe public education by allowing physical violence, harassment, and bullying to go unchecked, reports the Washington Post.
A group of 10 parents and a pro-charter school organization allege in their complaint that violent incidents increased 23 percent over the last two school years, according to the Post. What’s more, African-American and Hispanic students disproportionately encounter violence, compared to White and Asian students. Disabled and LGBT students, they claim, also encounter higher than average levels of abuse at school.
CBS News said the parents involved in the lawsuit each had “disturbing” experiences to share about students and teachers assaulting their kids.
“Our children all have been victims of violence in schools. And when we tried to get our children help, we were failed by the Department of Education,” one of the plaintiffs told CBS News.
The Post said the lawsuit highlights a 2015 state comptroller audit that found underreported violent incidents.
In April 2015, the New York Times reported that the audit uncovered 400 unreported cases at 10 schools. The incidents included 50 assaults that resulted in injuries, 13 sex offenses, and two cases of weapon seizures at those schools.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected the claim that violence is out of control. He said “major crime” is down 14 percent this year in the city’s schools, according to the Post.
De Blasio released this statement, via the Washington Post:
“I was a public school parent as recently as last June, and we never want to see a weapon in schools. I view each incidence as obviously troubling. We absolutely have more work to do, but school safety is showing us consistently that they can and will continue to drive down crime in the schools, and keep all students and staff safe.”
Disputing the mayor’s statistics, the lawsuit accuses the education department of violating students’ constitutional rights, and the plaintiffs hope to turn it into a class-action suit, according to the Post.
CBS notes that the plaintiffs are not seeking financial damages. Instead, they are demanding changes to keep children safe.