Elite NYC Private School Will No Longer Place Kids in Homerooms Predominantly Based on Race

Little Red School House, a private middle school in New York City, has decided to end the policy of placing minority students in the same homeroom.

Grades five through eight at the middle school each have about 40 kids and two homerooms, but all of the minority students were assigned to the same one, according to the New York Post.

The selection policy was implemented for grades seven and eight during the 2017 to 2018 school year and was set to expand to sixth grade in the fall, which is when parents pushed back.

Newsweek reached out to the school but did not receive a comment in time for publication. However, the school's director, Philip Kassen, provided the New York Post with emails he sent to parents, which explained he would end the policy before the new school year, but added that race would still be a "critical" determinant.

A classroom is seen February 21, 2014, at Steuart W. Weller Elementary School in Ashburn, Virginia. An NYC private school is being criticized for putting all minority students in one homeroom. PAUL J. RICHARDS/Getty Images

Kassen defended keeping minority children in the same homeroom on the basis that it's for their benefit, not an effort to isolate them from non-minority students, and referred to the school's handbook.

The handbook explains that no "single principle or formula" determines a student's section placement and factors include:

  • A balance within each class of academic strengths and areas in need of support
  • Past and current friendships
  • Division of children by gender
  • Matching individual children to specific teachers

An additional factor is the "need for students to have the opportunity to be with other children like themselves."

"This factor would, for example, lead us to put a high premium on placing a small number of students from a particular racial and ethnic group in a single section with each other," the handbook states.

It continued, "Research points to the academic, social, and emotional benefits to being in a classroom with others who share racial, ethnic, linguistic, and/or cultural backgrounds."

Amanda Uhry, owner of Manhattan Private School Advisors, a private school admissions consulting firm, berated the policy during an interview with NBC New York.

"Do you think public schools would ever do something like that?" she rhetorically asked. "Cause they wouldn't. They can't. They physically can't."

She added that it would be "outrageous" if a public school implemented the same policy as Little Red School House and grouped minority students together.

In a statement obtained by NBC New York, Kassen stressed that the homeroom selection was not created in an effort to "take away rights or opportunities" from minority students, but to create a supportive environment for all students, "which is the very heart of our mission."

The school's tuition is $45,485 a year, according to the website, and the New York Post reported students include the children of actor David Schwimmer, model Christy Turlington Burns, and director Sofia Coppola.

Instructor Blanca Claudio, center, teaches a history lesson in Spanish in a Dual Language Academy class at Franklin High School in Los Angeles. A New York City private school received criticism for putting minority students in only one homeroom. ROBYN BECK/Getty Images