A group of Asian parents sued the New York State Education Department this Wednesday over eligibility for a STEM program that they say unfairly exclude Asian and White students over Black and Hispanic students.
The lawsuit targets the state-funded Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), which admits around 11,000 7th-to-12th-grade students a year for classes, research opportunities and mentoring for low-income and “historically underrepresented” students, New York Post reported.
The program website states that their purpose is “To increase the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students prepared to enter college, and improve their participation rate in mathematics, science, technology, health-related fields, and the licensed professions.”
The filing claims that the state agency discriminates based on its eligibility requirements for the program, which is limited to students who are “economically disadvantaged” or “African American, Hispanic/Latino, Alaskan Native or American Indian,” according to Campus Reform.
“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 filing states.
Plaintiff Yiatin Chu of the New York-based Asian Wave Alliance joined the suit after hearing about the STEP policy.
“This is outright discrimination against Asian-American students pursuing the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education] field,” Chu told The Post. “The program should be for all students or for low income students. The state is choosing which race is eligible.”
The STEP program originated in 1985 as a way to boost interest in science, technology, and healthcare among low-income and underrepresented minority students. The suit states that “Thirty-nine years of discrimination is enough,” according to Campus Reform.
The Pacific Legal Foundation and the Equal Protection Project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation are representing the plaintiffs.
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