Student Voices

Many mostly black and Hispanic schools in New York City lack access to sports

How students are trying to change this

When Shaffiou Assoumanou moved to New York City from the African nation of Togo in December 2013, he dreamt of becoming a professional runner. He was “always the fastest” among his peers back home, and he looked forward to further developing his talent in America. “When I moved to the U.S., I was like, okay, this is going to be a life-changing opportunity,” Assoumanou said. “Who knows, maybe I could become the next Usain Bolt.”

Assoumanou enrolled at International Community High School in the Bronx, one of more than a dozen high schools in New York City designed for recent immigrants. He soon found out the school did not have a track team. If he wanted to keep up his running in a school setting, he would have to join the school’s soccer team. Assoumanou was relatively lucky that he had any sports options at his school. According to a new lawsuit, more than 17,000 black and Hispanic New York City students attend a high school with no sports teams. Tens of thousands more attend schools with just a handful of teams. Meanwhile, some of the whitest public high schools in the city have a plethora of athletic options, like Tottenville High School in Staten Island, which offers 44 teams.

Related: City that loved and lost high school football finally gets it back

A group of students and advocates in the Fair Play Coalition is protesting this disparity, which they say highlights inequitable resources and opportunities in New York City high schools. They are seeking to change this and ensure that all students, regardless of ethnicity, have the ability to play any sport the Public School Athletic League offers. Beyond the issue of equity, sports are a defining part of the high school experience for many students and can have a positive impact on students and a school’s retention and graduation numbers. In this week’s episode of Miseducation, New York City high school students explore what the lack of sports teams looks like within schools, and how it impacts students and their futures.

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