Lawyers for Frank J. Schorn, an Irish American public school teacher, alleges that the New York City Department of Education is violating the civil rights of Irish American teachers in the school system, who are obligated by contract to participate in the parent/teacher conferences.
“The insensitive scheduling of parent teacher meetings on March 17th has put me in an untenable position of choosing between my ethnic and religious heritage and my duty to help my students,” said Frank Schorn, who serves as Vice Chair of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center. “I foresee being prevented from attending any Irish cultural events on March 17th.”
Dr Brian O’Dwyer, the senior partner at the law firm O’Dwyer and Bernstien serves as the Chair of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.
“This year the mayor instituted three new school holidays,” he said. “One observing the Lunar New Year and the others recognizing Muslim religious holidays. We are not asking that the mayor accommodate New York’s oldest immigrant community by declaring a school holiday. We are instead asking that the Department of Education make a minor change to its schedule so that the religious observance of thousands of teachers and parents who celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick be recognized and honored.
According to the filed complaint, the parent/teacher conference, of which there are only two per school year, is scheduled for Thursday, March 17 at 4:30pm.
Because of the scheduled meeting, Irish American teachers say they are being denied the opportunity to participate in the St Patrick’s Day Parade, which is not only a celebration of Irish heritage but also a religious activity celebrating the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York.
According to a press release from O’Dwyer and Bernstein, Schorn and members of the Irish caucus of the New York City Council made repeated requests to the Department of Education to change the date for the conferences for both Irish American teachers and parents.
O’Dwyer stated, “The scheduling of the conferences on the most sacred day for Irish Americans not only interferes with the religious observance of the many Irish-American school teachers and administrators employed by the Department of Education, it similarly interferes with the rights of the parents of children enrolled in the New York City school system and that they also must make a choice between discussing their child’s scholastic progress or observing a religious feast day,” reads the press release.
The complaint requests an injunction prohibiting the scheduling of parent/teacher conferences not only this year but on any St Patrick’s Day in the future.
“In a city which celebrates its diversity and its accommodation for people of all religious and ethnic identities, it is particularly upsetting that the Department of Education has so blithely ignored the legitimate religious and ethnic expressions of Irish American New Yorkers.”