3 Jewish Groups File Petition Calling for Probe of Puerto Rican Educator

Three national Jewish organizations, which have accused Luis Fuentes, a Puerto Rican educator, with anti-Semitic and other racist views, filed today a formal petition asking New York School Chancellor Harvey B. Scribner to investigate the appointment of Fuentes as community superintendent of School District One in Manhattan and his removal if the charges are substantiated.

The petition was filed by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee. The American Jewish Committee, which had joined with the other three agencies last July 26 in protesting the Fuentes appointment to the decentralized school district on the Lower East Side, did not join in the petition to Scribner.

The petition also accused the community school board in District One of “dereliction of duty” in the Fuentes appointment. The petition charged that the community school board had failed to investigate Fuentes’ background and had discriminated on racial grounds against other applicants for the community superintendent’s post.

The petition asked the removal of the local school board if an investigation substantiated those charges. The organizations had accused Fuentes of openly biased remarks while he was an acting principal in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville demonstration school district in Brooklyn.

CLEAR RESPONSIBILITY TO CONDUCT PROBE

Arnold Forster, ADL general counsel, speaking for the three agencies, said that after an evaluation of the state-approved school decentralization law for the city school system, the agencies were convinced that Scribner had both the authority and the “clear responsibility” to make the investigation and to act against the local school board if the charges were found to be true.

The petition reiterated earlier charges that Fuentes had made public and private anti-Semitic statements, including one on May 7, 1970 at a Board of Education meeting. The petition charged that 56 educators had applied for the post 33 white, 11 Black, 10 Puerto Rican, one Chinese and one of unknown ethnic background. It added that the board interviewed six of the applicants, none of them white, offering the post first to one of the Puerto Rican applicants who “for reasons unknown,” declined it and Fuentes was then offered the $37,000 a year post and accepted it on July 12.

The petition said that one Black applicant “had outstanding qualifications for the position,” and asked Scribner to determine why “he and other well-qualified applicants were passed over and Fuentes selected.” Representatives of the Jewish groups met with Scribner on the issue and later were in touch with New York State Education Commissioner Ewald Nyquist, who told them he would investigate if city officials failed to take satisfactory action.

NEXT STORY