SPRING VALLEY— Holding signs and chanting, “Save our schools,” about 100 East Ramapo students and alumni demonstrated in front of their alma mater Thursday night, decrying school board decisions to cut funding and rallying in support of a lawsuit that targets the district’s leadership.
“See all these people right here? See me?” said Ramapo High School graduate Nico Montano, turning to face a group of elementary-age students gathered outside district offices. “We are fighting for you guys.”
Montano, who is studying at City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, lavished praise on the East Ramapo teachers and administrators who saw him through to graduation. But like other alumni who addressed the crowd, he said he worried about the lack of opportunities future and current students, like his younger sister, will have in the face of major program and staff cuts the board has approved.
Montano and others at the rally represent the Save Our Schools Coalition, a new student campaign that has joined forces with a group of hundreds of East Ramapo parents backing a federal class-action lawsuit against current and former school board members, top administrators and the district’s attorney.
The lawsuit alleges 13 defendants, including past and present members of the Orthodox and Hasidic school board majority, violated education law and students’ constitutional rights in schemes to divert millions of public dollars to support private religious schools since 2008. It also claims the students are segregated in special-education programs based on race.
“Our message here today is a clear one: We will not let our district and the futures of our students be sabotaged by private interests,” said Carlos Ortiz, Jr., a Ramapo High School graduate and Rutgers University student who is leading the student campaign.
Both the lawsuit and a separate petition, which seeks the removal of the board majority by the state education commissioner, are backed by the New York City-based public interest law firm Advocates for Justice.
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