SHUT OUT BY SCHOOL'S RACE QUOTA

By DAN MANGAN

June 25, 2007 -- A Brooklyn mother and father got the shock of their lives when school officials informed them their brilliant 11-year-old girl was denied admission to an elite public school - solely because she's of Indian descent.

"I feel bad because I would have gotten in if I was white," Nikita Rau lamented over her failed bid to attend the Mark Twain School, IS 239, in Coney Island, a magnet school for gifted students.

It turns out Mark Twain - unlike all but one other city public school - admits students according to racial quotas established in 1974 by a federal judge who ordered the school's desegregation.

Under those quotas - which originally were intended to boost minority enrollment - 60 percent of Mark Twain's student body is set aside for white students, while 40 percent is set aside for minorities.

"This country believes in racial equality, and we should not face this in America," said Nikita's dad, Dr. Anjan Rau, a Bay Ridge resident who emigrated from India in 1982. "I think it's morally wrong!

"She's American born, and she's a U.S. citizen, and [her parents] are both U.S. citizens, but that doesn't count," said Rau, who has hired a lawyer to try to overturn the decision.

"It could hurt her chances of going to Harvard, Yale or Princeton."

When Nikita recently applied to Mark Twain, she took an admission test geared toward music students and scored a 79.

In May, the Education Department sent her parents a letter that said Nikita was not accepted - even though white students who scored lower on the same test were admitted.

Officials told the Raus that because Nikita is classified as a minority, she would need to score at least 84.4 to be accepted, while white students needed to score 77 or more.

Her mom, Dr. Kanchan Rau, said that when she discussed the disparate treatment with Schools Regional Enrollment Director Paul Helfman, "he said, 'I agree with you: It's not right; it's not fair - but there's nothing I can do.' "

Kanchan Rau said Nikita reacted with "surprise and shock" after being told her skin color was keeping her out of the school.

Education Department spokesman Andrew Jacob said, "Although we strive to make our enrollment process as equitable as possible, we must comply with the federal court order."

The school system has only one other school, IS 227 in Queens, that operates under a court-mandated desegregation order that takes an applicant's race into account for admissions.

The Raus' lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, last week wrote school officials, urging them to reconsider their rejection of Nikita, calling Mark Twain's quota system "antiquated," and saying, "The unconstitutional rejection of my client constitutes discrimination."

She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court currently is considering a case that could end racial quotas in schools nationwide, including Mark Twain.

Shortly after The Post began inquiring, the Raus said, they were called by a school official who told them Nikita could attend IS 98, the Bay Academy, another Coney Island school for the gifted, albeit one less competitive than Mark Twain.

dan.mangan@nypost.com