Category Archives: know your rights

Improving Access to Physical Education for All New York City Students

By Sascha Murillo, Community Organizer – Health Justice Program

New York State requires that all schools provide students in all grades with physical education (PE). However, in New York City, the majority of schools are failing to meet the state PE mandate. Several reports demonstrate the breadth of the problem. A New York Times article found that about 1 in 5 NYC high school students reports having no gym class in an average week. An audit conducted by former Comptroller Liu reported that none of the 31 NYC elementary schools visited was meeting the New York State PE mandate.

While the problem affects nearly all NYC schools, schools in neighborhoods that are predominantly low-income and Black or Latino are even more unlikely to provide adequate PE. The disproportionate lack of access to PE for low-income students of color only exacerbates existing racial disparities and inequities in child obesity and academic achievement.

Ensuring access to PE for all students in NYC could go a long way to addressing these health and educational inequities. There is a plethora of evidence demonstrating that PE improves student health, reduces child obesity, and improves academic performance, including test scores. Yet with all that said, why are schools failing to provide their students with adequate PE instruction?

The cause of the problem is manifold. Many schools are simply unaware of the requirements. The PE standards as laid out by the state require that students in grades K through 6 receive 120 minutes of PE per week. The students in grades 7 and 8 should receive at least 90 minutes of PE per week and all students in grades 7-12 should have at least three gym classes per week in one semester and two classes per week in the other semester. Recess cannot be counted toward meeting these minimum time standards.

Yet even when schools have knowledge of the requirements, many struggle to meet them. Some schools utilize non-certified instructors for PE, which may prevent students from receiving quality physical education instruction. And space limitations due to co-location of multiple schools in buildings with one gymnasium also impede a school’s ability to provide all students with adequate PE time.

So what can be done? With a new mayoral administration bent on tackling the city’s widening inequities, education and health advocates alike are coming together to raise the importance of providing quality and comprehensive PE to all of NYC’s students. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest has teamed up with a wide variety of stakeholders, including Bronx Health REACH, to advocate for improved access to PE in all NYC public schools.

The NYC Department of Education (NYC DOE) has the opportunity to reverse the trend in PE and work to support and ensure compliance with the state PE mandate. The NYC DOE should provide schools with resources on the PE requirement by posting information on their website and sharing best practices across the five boroughs, including examples of co-located schools that have coordinated schedules to meet the PE time requirements. The NYC DOE should also document and regularly report schools’ compliance.

The NYC DOE should also adequately staff the department with professionals who can provide schools with support and technical assistance with offering a comprehensive PE curriculum. The NYC DOE could work toward these goals within the Office of School Wellness, which it jointly oversees with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The new mayoral administration is in charge of one of the largest public school systems in the nation, with one of the most diverse student populations. We hope that the new mayoral administration will improve the physical and academic well-being of millions of students and take a step to advance health and educational justice by making improved access to quality physical education a priority.

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Filed under health disparities, know your rights, people of color

Community and Advocacy Groups Commend Nassau County Executive Orders Guaranteeing Translation and Interpretation Services to Nassau Residents

See below—and congrats to Shena, Jenn, and Kate for their hard work!

Mineola, NY – In an important step towards ensuring good government in Nassau County, County Executive Ed Mangano signed a second of two Executive Orders today guaranteeing translation and interpretation services to all limited-English proficient (LEP) residents in their interactions with County Government. Recent emergency and relief efforts have brought into stark relief the importance of the county agencies being able to communicate effectively and efficiently with all Nassau County residents, including the more than 130,000 county residents with limited ability to read, write, or speak English.

The two Nassau County Executive Orders (numbers 67 and 72) align Nassau County with Suffolk County and New York State’s similar executive orders in 2011 and 2012 that guaranteed such language assistance services, and make Nassau one of the first suburban counties in the United States to enact a comprehensive language access policy.  These Orders will bring significant public safety gains to the county and improve all agencies’ ability to interact with Nassau’s diverse population.  Under the provisions of the Order, all county agencies will, among other things, be required to:

  • Translate essential public documents and forms into the top six languages spoken by LEP residents of Nassau County—namely, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Persian, Korean, and French Creole
  • Provide interpretation services to all LEP Nassau residents;
  • Designate a language access coordinator and draft plans for complying with this Executive Order in the next 120 days; and
  • Refrain from using language access services use as a basis for inquiring about, or sharing, immigration status.

Representatives of various organizations that have worked with the County to ensure improved language access services and achieve these Executive Orders cheered the signing and expressed their commitment to working with the County to ensure effective implementation:

Maria Cordoba, a member of Make the Road New York and Westbury resident, said, “I recently went to the County Department of Social Services, and finding out that no one in the staff spoke Spanish, I had to leave without being served. Make the Road New York is excited about these two orders and the commitment they demonstrate to limited-English proficient residents.”

Cheryl Keshner, coordinator of Long Island Language Advocates Coalition and senior paralegal at the Empire Justice Center, stated: “We applaud the signing of these executive orders. As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy, it is essential that all members of our community have equal and timely access to government services, especially during times of crisis.”

Daniel Altschuler, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, affirmed “These two Executive Orders together are critical for ensuring good government in Nassau County. We are thrilled that Nassau will now become one of the first suburban counties in the United States to guarantee language access in county agencies, and we look forward to continuing to work with the County administration to ensure effective implementation.”

Shena Elrington, Director of Health Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, said: “The signing of these two executive orders marks a civil rights victory for limited English proficient residents of Nassau County, who will now be able to meaningfully access government services. These EOs reflect a commitment to ensuring access for every resident, regardless of the language he or she speaks.”

“Today Nassau County joins a growing movement in New York and across the country to break down language barriers between immigrant communities and their local governments,” said Nisha Agarwal, Deputy Director at the Center for Popular Democracy. “These executive orders will make it possible for residents with limited English proficiency to access the services they need to take care of themselves and their families, and will help create a healthier, safer, more economically robust Nassau county for all.”

“Today, Nassau County takes an important step forward in ensuring equal access to critical services such as police and emergency assistance, medical care, and important information such as public health and safety notices,” said Jason Starr, Director of the Nassau County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.  “These orders celebrate both the linguistic and cultural diversity that make our community special and the spirit of tolerance and diversity embodied in the Constitution.”

Martha Maffei, Executive Director at Services for the Advancement of Women (SEPA Mujer) stated “In my daily work with immigrant women escaping domestic abuse, language access is crucial for women who are seeking services for themselves, as well as for their families. I congratulate Nassau County for providing the tool that victims of domestic violence need to look forward in their lives.”

“As Nassau County becomes more and more diverse, these Executive Orders will help ensure that all of our residents have access to important services, and can participate in community life,” said Anita Halasz, Organizer with Long Island Jobs with Justice.

Delbys Torres, member organizer for La Fuente and resident of Freeport said, “We applaud Nassau County for committing to provide access to language services to thousands of residents in all county interactions, not just in a select few. We encourage them to continue to find ways of ensuring that Nassau County is a place who provides equal opportunity and access to services regardless of language barriers. It is a great day when government goes beyond what is legal under the law, but what is just and critical to ensure that our government is truly democratic and open to all.”

“These orders will assure that all parents are better informed about available services and, in turn, how to help their children succeed,” said Johanna Rotta, Coordinator of Community Assets at the Early Years Institute.

“The Nassau County Language Access Executive Orders will help Limited-English Proficient consumers with disabilities to have a better quality of life, to live more independently and to participate more in their community,” said Grisselle Rivera-Mucciolo, Director of Hispanic Outreach at the Long Island Center for Independent Living.

Read more here. The official press release can be found here.

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Filed under immigrant health, immigrant rights, know your rights, language access, Uncategorized

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law Release Report Documenting Hundreds of Cases of Coerced Medical Repatriation of Undocumented Immigrants by U.S. Hospitals

Medical repatriations of undocumented immigrants likely to rise as result of federal funding reductions to safety net hospitals under Affordable Care Act

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New York, NY, and Newark, New Jersey, December 17, 2012 − Today, the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) at Seton Hall University School of Law and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) released a report documenting an alarming number of cases in which U.S. hospitals have forcibly repatriated vulnerable undocumented patients, who are ineligible for public insurance as a result of their immigration status, in an effort to cut costs. This practice is inherently risky and often results in significant deterioration of a patient’s health, or even death.  The report asserts that such actions are in violation of basic human rights, in particular the right to due process and the right to life.

According to the report, the U.S. is responsible for this situation by failing to appropriately reform immigration and health care laws and protect those within its borders from human rights abuses. The report argues that medical deportations will likely increase as safety net hospitals, which provide the majority of care to undocumented and un- or underinsured patients, encounter tremendous financial pressure resulting from dramatic funding cutbacks under the Affordable Care Act.

The report cites more than 800 cases of attempted or actual medical deportations across the country in recent years, including: a nineteen-year-old girl who died shortly after being wheeled out of a hospital back entrance typically used for garbage disposal and transferred to Mexico; a car accident victim who died shortly after being left on the tarmac at an airport in Guatemala; and a young man with catastrophic brain injury who remains bed-ridden and suffering from constant seizures after being forcibly deported to his elderly mother’s hilltop home in Guatemala.

According to Lori A. Nessel, a Professor at Seton Hall University School of Law and Director of the School’s Center for Social Justice, “When immigrants are in need of ongoing medical care, they find themselves at the crossroads of two systems that are in dire need of reform—health care and immigration law. Aside from emergency care, hospitals are not reimbursed by the government for providing ongoing treatment for uninsured immigrant patients.  Therefore, many hospitals are engaging in de facto deportations of immigrant patients without any governmental oversight or accountability.  This type of situation is ripe for abuse.”

“Any efforts at comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the reality that there are millions of immigrants with long-standing ties to this country who are not eligible for health insurance.  Because health reform has excluded these immigrants from its reach, they remain uninsured and at a heightened risk of medical deportation,” added Shena Elrington, Director of the Health Justice Program at NYLPI. “Absent legislative or regulatory change, the number of forced or coerced medical repatriations is likely to grow as hospitals face mounting financial pressures and reduced Charity Care and federal contributions.”

Rachel Lopez, an Assistant Clinical Professor with CSJ stated, “The U.S. is bound to protect immigrants’ rights to due process under both international law and the U.S. Constitution.  Hospitals are becoming immigration agents and taking matters into their own hands.  It is incumbent on the government to stop the disturbing practice of medical deportation and to ensure that all persons within the country are treated with basic dignity.”

More information about this issue can be found at medicalrepatriation.wordpress.com, a NYLPI- and CSJ-run website that monitors news and advocacy developments on the topic of medical deportation.

About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) advances equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights and environmental justice, through the power of community lawyering and partnerships with the private bar. Through community lawyering, NYLPI puts its legal, policy and community organizing expertise at the service of New York City communities and individuals.

About the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law

The Center for Social Justice (CSJ) is one of the nation’s strongest pro bono and clinical programs, empowering students to gain critical, hands-on experience by providing pro bono legal services for economically disadvantaged residents in the region. The cases on which students work span the range from the local to global. Providing educational equity for urban students, litigating on behalf of the victims of real estate fraud, protecting the human rights of immigrants, and obtaining asylum for those fleeing persecution are just some of the issues that CSJ faculty and students team up to address.

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Media Contacts:

Lori A. Nessel, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Social Justice, Seton Hall University School of Law, Lori.Nessel@shu.edu, 973-642-8708

Stephanie Ramirez, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, sramirez@groupgordon.com, 212-784-5704

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Filed under federal, immigrant health, immigrant rights, insurance, know your rights, medical deportation

Suffolk County Language Access Executive Order Signed!

by Lindsey Hennawi, Program Assistant

Great news! On November 14th, 2012, Suffolk County Executive Steve Ballone signed an executive order requiring county government agencies to translate vital public documents into the top six languages spoken by limited English proficient (LEP) residents of Suffolk County and to provide interpretation services for all LEP residents as well.

Twenty percent of Suffolk County’s 1.5 million residents are LEP. Now, residents whose primary languages are Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Polish, French Creole, and Portuguese will be able to access local government offices and communicate with officials. This means victims of domestic violence and hate crimes can access police protection. Residents affected by Superstorm Sandy can receive much needed information about recovery efforts. Support services such as unemployment insurance and public benefits are now also accessible to LEP residents. Thanks to this executive order, an individual’s language will no longer be a barrier to participation in government services or access to important resources.

The order is descended from similar legislation, including President Clinton’s 2000 executive order that mandated all agencies receiving federal funding develop language access plans in order to comply with the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of discrimination based on national origin; Mayor Bloomberg’s Executive Order 120, signed in 2008, that bans city agencies from discriminating against residents based on their primary language or national origin; and Governor Cuomo’s 2011 Executive Order 26 that does the same for executive state agencies.

One of the first of its kind in a suburban county in the United States, Mr. Ballone’s executive order comes on the heels of the previous Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, who in his tenure utilized county police as immigration agents, criminalized Latino day laborers, and marginalized Latino-majority neighborhoods, earning the county a reputation for anti-immigrant resentment and violence.

Suffolk County’s executive order is a result of the advocacy of the organizations with which NYLPI partnered on this campaign, including the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition, Make the Road New York, the Center for Popular Democracy, and other groups that have tirelessly promoted immigrants’ rights in Suffolk County for years. Since 2009, NYLPI has advocated for language access orders on the city, state, and county level, and is currently working to develop materials to help other advocates replicate these efforts.

We are thrilled Suffolk County has taken this critical step toward advancing the civil rights of LEP individuals and making New York a more inclusive home for all its diverse residents. Congratulations to all of the advocates involved and thank you, Steve Ballone, for your work toward equality and justice on behalf of LEP residents! May yours be one of many county orders to come.

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Filed under immigrant health, immigrant rights, know your rights, language access, legislation, people of color

4/17 Townhall Event: Make Health Equality A Reality

NYLPI  will be teaming up with Bronx Health REACH to put on a community townhall event in the Bronx on Saturday, April 17th.

We will convene community residents to learn from doctors, lawyers, and health advocates how the healthcare system is FAILING the Bronx and what we all can do to change it for the better.

Health Justice Director, Nisha Agarwal, will serve as one of the panelists.

Event is open to everyone! We hope to see you there.

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Filed under event, health disparities, immigrant health, insurance, know your rights, legislation, people of color