The New York State Court of Appeals held in North Syracuse Central School District v. New York State Division of Human Rights, 19 N.Y.3d 481, 488 (2012) that a public school district is not an “education corporation or association” as contemplated by Executive Law § 296(4). The public school students in these proceedings filed complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights (“SDHR”) under the Executive Law alleging that the school districts engaged in discrimination on the basis of race and/or disability. Since the Court found that public school districts were not “educational corporation[s] or associations,” SDHR lacked jurisdiction to investigate the students’ complaints.
Notwithstanding this decision, students subject to harassment on the basis of race and/or disability may have rights under federal law and may be able to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. Complaints against public schools providing K-12 instruction or against public post-secondary institutions may be filed with the Commissioner of Education pursuant to New York Education Law § 310 or § 313, respectively.