The parents of an Indian American girl are in shock after their daughter was denied admission to an elite New York school for gifted children because of its racial quota rules.
Nikita Rau, 11, failed to get into the Mark Twain Intermediate School for specially gifted children, also known as IS 239, although she scored more marks than white students, according to The New York Post.
"I feel bad because I would have gotten in if I was white," Nikita told the Post.
IS 239 is one of two public schools in New York that follows a racial quota system, according to a 1974 federal court order.
Under the system, originally intended to boost minority enrolment, 60 per cent of Mark Twain's student body is kept aside for white students while 40 per cent is reserved for minorities, the Post reported.
After applying for Mark Twain, Nikita took a test for musically gifted children and scored 79. Last month, the education department sent a letter to her parents saying she has not been accepted as she was classified as a minority and needed to score at least 84.4 as against 77 needed of white students.
"This country believes in racial equality and we should not face this in America," the Post quoted Nikita's father Anjan Rau as saying. "I think it's morally wrong," said Rau, a Bay Ridge resident who moved from India in 1982.
He added that though Nikita was born in the US and was a US citizen, this was not taken into account. "It could hurt her chances of going to Harvard, Yale or Princeton," Rau said.
IS 239, popularly known as 'Twain', is known not only for its intensive academic rigour, but also for the fact that all students attending it have special potential in a talent area.
The school is located in Coney Island, a predominantly African American and Hispanic section of the New York school district.
When Nikita's mother Kanchan Rau approached Schools Regional Enrolment director Paul Helfman, he agreed that the system was unfair but pleaded helplessness.
When the Post began inquiring into the matter, the Raus were called by a school official who told them Nikita could attend IS 98 or the Bay Academy, another Coney Island school for the gifted, though less competitive than Mark Twain.
The Raus' lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, has written to the Mark Twain authorities urging them to reconsider their decision to reject Nikita.
"The unconstitutional rejection of my client constitutes discrimination," she wrote.
Meanwhile, the Raus have received support from New York schools chancellor Joel Klein, who reportedly said that the 1974 court order was no longer necessary.
"I think probably that court order is no longer necessary," The New York Sun quoted Klein as saying Monday.
He, however, said he would not take any action in this case pending a US Supreme Court decision due this week. The court is ruling on two cases challenging public schools' use of race as a factor in their admissions decisions.
Arnold said the court's ruling in those cases would also determine the Rau family's next move.