The John Jay High School in Park Slope—whose students developed a bit of a bad reputation over the years for mischief and criminal activity in the neighborhood—is facing a big change that has parents worried about "Apartheid education." The Department of Education wants to introduce a new selective high school, Millennium Brooklyn, into the John Jay campus, which is currently home to three schools. DoE officials say the building was "underutilized" last year and has room for another 600 students. But parents worry these new "elite" students will drain resources and attention away from the current students, many of whom come from low-income families outside the neighborhood.
At a public hearing tonight, parents are expected to rally against Millennium, which would be a selective high school with priority given to students who reside in Brooklyn, as well as an inclusion program for students with autism. The addition of Millennium in the building would coincide with the end of middle school programs at the Secondary Schools of Law and Journalism. The Manhattan location of Millennium is 35% white, 12% black, 22% Hispanic, and 28% Asian. But at John Jay, 6% are white, 36% are black, 50% are Hispanic and 7% are Asian. "Students are scared all the attention will go to the new school,"Joyce Szuflita, an education consultant, tells the Post. "They don’t want to be treated like second-class citizens."
Local Councilman Brad Lander, who will be at tonight's meeting, is trying to bring the two sides together, and recommends the school start by removing the metal detectors for the entire John Jay campus and "commit to diversity." In a statement, he says, "The disparity between the schools and the community highlights deep racial, economic, and educational inequalities that plague our city and society... Families with 8th-grade students have repeatedly reached out to my office, frustrated that students in Manhattan have several small, selective high-schools that give priority to Manhattan students, while students in Brooklyn do not... And students with autism spectrum disorders face overwhelming difficulty finding a high-school that can meet their needs."
But hold on—what about Park Slope residents and their needs? One local told us about some... formative experiences growing up near John Jay, which was more notorious in the '70s and '80s. "During high school, we had to take special measures to avoid ever being on 7th Avenue between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.," says the resident, who would only speak to us anonymously because of lingering John Jay fears. "I remember once where I accidentally got home around 4 p.m. with a few friends, and we got surrounded outside Methodist. The John Jay kids grabbed me by the backpack to shake me down. My friends were like, 'Oh no, they got him!' and were gone so quick it was like a cartoon.
"I could go on and on—about the time we got jumped for a pie from Smiley's ('Yo, you got my slice, son?') or the time my sister got held up with a box cutter by some Jay kids at the F station on 7th Avenue. And every Thursday it seemed like some of the girls would come down to fight girls who were in the 9th grade at JHS 51—tremendous contests of wills where the object was to rip the opponent's hoop earrings out. It'll be sad if the next generation of Park Slope kids is denied these experiences. I think they were character building.