Queens kindergarten accused of dividing classes by race

September 9, 2014
Parents wait for their kindergartners at P.S. 159 in Queens.

Parents wait for their kindergartners at P.S. 159 in Queens.

By Ham Ji-ha, Tae Hong

Did a public school in Queens, N.Y., divide its kindergarten classes based on race?

It’s the accusation being thrown at P.S. 159 by parents, who are demanding to know why one kindergarten class is comprised wholly of students of Chinese and Korean origin.

Kindergarten students are divided into five classes at the school. In classroom 207, all 26 students are of Asian descent, with 19 Chinese students and 7 Korean students.

Next door, classroom 209 has a roll call consisting of Asian, Hispanic, black and white students, as does the rest of the three remaining classes, a group of Korean parents said Monday.

“It’s impossible to accept, with common sense, that an entire classroom consists of just Korean and Chinese students,” said one of the parents, identified only as Lee. “Even if they say that they gathered all the kids who aren’t very fluent in English, I don’t understand why there aren’t any kids of another race.”

Another parent said she doesn’t want her child’s first school experience to be void of diversity, especially living in America.

As of July, P.S. 159′s student population by race consists of 42.63 percent Asians, 31.19 percent whites and 20.53 percent Hispanics.

Parents say they understand Asian students comprise a large percentage of the school’s population but do not see a reason for one entire classroom to have no diversity.

The New York City Department of Education called the incident a “coincidence” and said it was not done on purpose.

Classes are divided randomly, the DOE told The Korea Times. Schools may divide classrooms by sex, but it is impossible for them to divide them by race or language. It added that application forms for its kindergartens do not ask for race or language.

Korean parents, however, said they checked off a section on the application asking about languages spoken at home.

The DOE, when told of the parents’ accusations, said it was unable to reach the principal of the school, Paul Didio.