NEW YORK — The closure of two Indian-run schools in the U.S. was not an isolated incident, but it was a result of the country’s policy of “unilateral control” of its schools, according to two former state and federal officials and others.
The shuttering of Surat High School and the nearby Indian-owned Rupesh Patel School, which was shut down in 2016, occurred after the government’s move in April to allow private schools to open within the boundaries of the state’s Indian-dominated public schools, where a large majority of the students are Indian.
The government has said that these schools are required to provide “equal access” to all students.
But the state-run government said the schools, which are open to students of all nationalities, are not required to accept students of a particular ethnic group.
Rupesh and Surat were closed to students in 2019, the last year for which state records are available.
In 2020, the Indian government also shut down RupESH and Surath schools in a move that drew widespread condemnation.
The schools are now owned by the government, but they still accept students from all ethnicities, including children from the neighboring communities of Surakhshan and Jharkhand.
Both the schools have been closed in recent years, with both remaining open, but the state of New York and the federal government have yet to formally announce a solution.
The state Department of Education has not released records on the schools’ closure.
New York, which is home to the nation’s largest Indian community, has said it will review its policy of letting private schools open within its borders to allow for better access to students from minority communities.
The government said it would provide additional funds to schools that open within their boundaries.
“The policy of state and local control over Indian-majority schools has resulted in substantial financial loss for the state,” state Department for Education Secretary Mary G. Ehrlichman said in a statement.
“The government will conduct a thorough review of its Indian-based Indian-only policy and ensure the future of all Indian-origin public schools.”
RupESH, which opened in 1978 and has more than 4,400 students, was the first Indian-language public school to be shut down.
The school was closed in 2000 when the Indian Government of India (IGI) imposed a moratorium on the opening of schools to allow more time for Indian students.
The IGI had closed schools to prevent the growth of Hindu nationalist politics.
The school is now operated by the New York City-based nonprofit Indian Parents Network, which operates schools in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. In the past, the school has also served as a hub for the Indian-American community.
Indian parents, who are often the primary caregivers for their children, said they are angry at the state for closing their schools.
The parents have said they do not know the reason for the closure.
They also said they want to know how the state plans to keep Indian children safe and to ensure they can return to their homes if they are sent back to their villages.
Rachna Dixit, a professor at New York University, said the state has a “lack of knowledge” about how Indian schools are run.
“It seems that they do know but they don’t know how to implement it,” she said.
“If you have the Indian community not knowing how to run a school, how do you manage the schools?”
The Indian-controlled schools have faced a growing number of lawsuits.
Last year, the U and New York state filed suit on behalf of a woman who was denied access to an Indian-operated school in New York because she was the sole parent of her two children.
The lawsuit was settled out of court.
A report last year by the American Civil Liberties Union found that Indian-affiliated schools, as well as private ones, had been systematically discriminating against Indian students and were understaffed and underfunded.
A review by the UCL Initiative found that the state had failed to enforce its Indian Education Act, which prohibits discrimination against students based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
State and federal authorities have also been investigating the closures, with the UAC filing a lawsuit on behalf a former student in the Indian school system.
A spokesman for the governor’s office, John DiNapoli, said he had no immediate comment on the ULC report.
The report does not include information on the status of the case.
State law requires that all Indian schools be opened to all pupils in accordance with the Indian Education Acts, and that students from any ethnic group must be enrolled in the school.
The schools’ closing was announced last month by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has pledged to close the remaining Indian-oriented schools.
A spokesman for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.