Clarifies the scope of the term "educational institution".
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the executive law, in relation to clarifying the scope of the application of subdivision 4 of section 296 to educational institutions
PURPOSE OF BILL:
The purpose of the bill is to clarify that the anti-discrimination protections of Article 15 of the Executive Law (Human Rights Law), Section 296.4, cover public as well as private schools.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill would amend Section 292.35 of the Human Rights Law to add a new subdivision 35 to provide a definition of "educational institution." In subsection (a), the definition incorporates language currently in the Law, which states that the paragraph applies to an "education corporation or association which holds itself out to the public to be non-sectarian and exempt from taxation pursuant to the provisions of article four of the real property tax law." In subsection (b), the terms "any public school, including any school district, board of cooperative educational services, public college, or public university" are added to the definition.
Section 2 of the bill would amend Section 296.4 of the Human Rights Law to remove a reference to an "education corporation or association which holds itself out to the public to be non-sectarian and exempt from taxation pursuant to the provisions of article four of the real property tax law", as this reference will now be found in the definition section of the Law. Section 296.4 is amended to refer to "educational institutions," as defined in Section 292.35.
Section 3 of the bill would provide for an immediate effective date.
Section 296.4 of the Human Rights Law currently states that it applies to an "education corporation or association which holds itself out to the public to be nonsectarian and exempt from taxation pursuant to the provisions of article four of the real property tax law". This section functions without reference to any definition in the definition section of the Law, which is Section 292.
Under the current statutory language, the Division of Human Rights has asserted jurisdiction over public school districts for over twenty years, but the Appellate Division, Second Department recently held that Section 296.4 did not provide jurisdiction over public school districts. See East Meadow Union Free School District v. N.Y.S. Division of Human
Rights, 65 A.D.3d 1342, 886 N.Y.S.2d 211 (2d Dept. 2009), Iv. denied 14 N.Y.3d 710 (2010).
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
A bill containing these provisions (A. 11563/ S.8436) was introduced in 2010 as a Governor's Program Bill, but did not come to a vote in either house.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT
The right to be free from discrimination by educational institutions is set out as one of the purposes of the New York State Human Rights Law, the oldest anti-discrimination law in the country. Thus at the outset the Human Rights Law states, at Section 290.3:
The legislature hereby finds and declares that the state has the responsibility to act to assure that every individual within this state is afforded an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life and that the failure to provide such equal opportunity, whether because of discrimination, prejudice, intolerance or inadequate education, training, housing or health care not only threatens the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state and threatens the peace, order, health, safety and general welfare of the state and its inhabitants. A division in the executive department is hereby created to encourage programs designed to insure that every individual shall have an equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural and intellectual life of the state; to encourage and promote the development and execution by all persons within the state of such state programs; to eliminate and prevent discrimination in employment, in places of public accommodation, resort or amusement, in educational institutions, in public services, in housing accommodations, in commercial space and in credit transactions and to take other actions against discrimination as herein provided; and the division established hereunder is hereby given general jurisdiction and power for such purposes.
Moreover, Human Rights Law § 291 entitled Equality of Opportunity a Civil Right, the "opportunity to obtain education" without discrimination on all the bases covered by the Law is "recognized and declared to be a civil right." Executive Law Section 291.2.
There is no suggestion in this broad language relative to equality of educational opportunity that the Legislature intended to limit its application to private schools. Indeed, addressing the inadequacy of education referred to as one of the Law's purposes cannot be achieved without holding public institutions accountable for discrimination.
Thus Section 296.4 of the Human Rights Law has been interpreted by the Division of Human Rights for over twenty years as encompassing access to public educational institutions without unlawful discrimination.
This bill will clarify that access to public schools without unlawful discrimination is protected under the education provisions of the
Human Rights Law. The clarification of the definition of covered entities under Section 296.4 will ensure that the education provisions of the Human Rights Law fulfill the intended purpose of the law, and will avoid further litigation of the unclear scope of the provision.
The amendment will not increase Division case filings, as the Division has, for over twenty years, accepted and investigated complaints against public educational institutions alleging discrimination in education. Moreover, clarification of the definition of covered entities will avoid further costly litigation of the unclear scope of the provision.
This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 5823 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE June 17, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sen. SALAND -- (at request of the Division of Human Rights) -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Rules AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to clarifying the scope of the application of subdivision 4 of section 296 to educational institutions THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Section 292 of the executive law is amended by adding a new subdivision 35 to read as follows: 35. THE TERM "EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION", WHEN USED IN THIS ARTICLE, SHALL MEAN: (A) ANY EDUCATION CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION WHICH HOLDS ITSELF OUT TO THE PUBLIC TO BE NON-SECTARIAN AND EXEMPT FROM TAXATION PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF ARTICLE FOUR OF THE REAL PROPERTY TAX LAW; OR (B) ANY PUBLIC SCHOOL, INCLUDING ANY SCHOOL DISTRICT, BOARD OF COOPER- ATIVE EDUCATION SERVICES, PUBLIC COLLEGE, OR PUBLIC UNIVERSITY. S 2. Subdivision 4 of section 296 of the executive law, as amended by chapter 106 of the laws of 2003, is amended to read as follows: 4. It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an
[education corporation or association which holds itself out to the public to be non-sectarian and exempt from taxation pursuant to the provisions of article four of the real property tax law]EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION to deny the use of its facilities to any person otherwise qualified, or to permit the harassment of any student or applicant, by reason of his race, color, religion, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, age or marital status, except that any such insti- tution which establishes or maintains a policy of educating persons of one sex exclusively may admit students of only one sex. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD09756-01-1