Spitzer Sues Harlem High School For Fraud

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that he has filed a lawsuit to prevent a privately-run Harlem high school from falsely representing to parents that the school is authorized to issue high school diplomas and administer Board of Regents exams.

The lawsuit against Wallie S. Simpson, Principal of the Lower East Side International Community School and the Harlem International Community School (HICS), located at 421-425 West 145th Street, seeks to permanently enjoin HICS from further engaging in deceptive, fraudulent and illegal business practices and pay restitution to parents who have enrolled their kids in the school.

"This school has failed on all counts and must immediately stop falsely advertising its authority to issue high school diplomas," Spitzer said. "The operators took the hard-earned money of unsuspecting parents who sought to give their children a good education."

The Attorney General's investigation found that school officials used newspaper ads, brochures and word-of-mouth advertisements to lure students into the school. In printed materials, school officials promised parents that students would receive a high-quality education and that a diploma from HICS would open doors to the country's elite

Several students and their families learned the hard way that the high school was not chartered or registered by New York State. One student who tried to enroll at Manhattan Community College after "graduating" from HICS in 1998 was told that she would have to obtain a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) before she would be accepted as a high school graduate.

The Lower East Side International Community School was chartered to run a grade school in 1977 but began doing business under the name Harlem International Community School (HICS) when it moved to Harlem and added a high school curriculum. The name change, change of location and operation of a high school are all violations of the school's charter. Although New York State law allows a high school to be operated without a charter, no high school may issue diplomas unless it is registered with the Board of Regents. The school does not disclose to parents who enroll their children in the high school the fact that it is not authorized to issue diplomas because it is not registered.

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 $60 for a textbook deposit, a $60 registration fee, a $100 fee for a science and computer lab, $30 for accident insurance, and $500 for building maintenance. The Attorney General is seeking restitution for the approximately 21 parents who enrolled their children in the school.

In addition, Spitzer is asking the court to order the school and its operators to post a performance bond of $25,000 before allowing them to apply for an amendment to their charter that would authorize the school to issue high school diplomas.

"It is inconceivable that HICS officials would prey on the hard-working parents of this community who, like all of us, only want the best for our children. We applaud the Attorney General for his efforts to stop the school from deceiving the community and help parents recoup some of their losses," said Senator David Patterson, who notified Spitzer of the consumer complaints.

The case is being handled by Deputy Bureau Chief Dianne Dixon of the AG's Consumer Frauds Bureau.