Judge Finds Harlem High School Defrauded Parents

Attorney General Spitzer today hailed a state court decision that will allow families in Harlem to seek restitution for monies paid to a privately-run high school that falsely represented its authority to issue diplomas.

State Supreme Court Justice Walter B. Tolub ruled that the Harlem International Community School, located at 421-425 West 145th Street, is unsanctioned by New York State education authorities and that its diplomas are worthless. The court permanently enjoined the school and its officials from engaging further in fraudulent conduct, and provided restitution for parents who were deceived.

"This case is about one thing: ensuring that no other student faces the abject disappointment of being rejected for college because he or she lacks a valid diploma," Spitzer said. "It is deplorable that the school preyed on the hard-working parents of Harlem who desperately sought to provide their children with a sound education," Spitzer said.

The Attorney General's lawsuit, which was filed in March, demonstrated that school officials used newspaper ads, brochures and word-of-mouth representations to mislead parents about its ability to issue high school diplomas and the quality of education that the high school would provide students. For example, while the school was making promises to parents that a diploma from the school would open doors to the country's elite colleges and assuring parents that its faculty consisted solely of certified teachers, the high school math teacher had no math degree and was, instead, the school's janitor.

The school required parents to pay a non-refundable application fee of $750 for each child enrolled. Tuition costs are $3,000 per student per year. Additionally, parents are charged fees for textbooks, registration, science and computer labs, accident insurance, and building maintenance.

The school must pay restitution to parents who came forward to file an affidavit with the Attorney General's office, and must post a bond of $10,000 before it can apply to amend its charter with the State Board of Regents which, if approved, would allow the school to issue high school diplomas. The school must also notify parents and guardians of all students enrolled in the school about the high school's true status.

The case, which was referred to the Attorney General's office by Senator David Paterson who had received a number of complaints from parents, is being handled by Deputy Bureau Chief Dianne Dixon of the Attorney General's Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.