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Social Justice Group Files Lawsuit to Force New Jersey to Integrate its Schools


May 19,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, a coalition organized as the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools, including the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Latino Action Network, and Shiloh Baptist Church, the African American Chamber of Commerce and others, decried the existing, still unrectified educational divide in this state and have filed a lawsuit to force integration in New Jersey Schools.

The groups filed the suit yesterday on the 64th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v Board of Education decision, which ruled school segregation unconstitutional. They argue that New Jersey’s segregated school system violates the state constitution and ask the court to stop the further assignment of students solely on the basis of residency. They also ask that the Legislature and education commissioner be ordered to devise a different system for placing students in schools. It is the first lawsuit challenging statewide school segregation filed anywhere in the nation in more than a half century.

The suit is highly critical of the state oversight of charter schools, alleging that segregation in these schools occurs not only because they are predominantly located in communities with large minority populations, but also “results from the failure of the State Commissioner of Education to perform his statutory and regulatory duties.”

The state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, also backs the effort.

“New Jersey’s public schools are as segregated by race and poverty today as they were in 1954,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Sixty-four years after Brown, we have important promises to keep and still others to make to New Jersey’s students. This case is about finally making good on our promises.”
Haygood noted that the state’s racial diversity and racial segregation, in combination with its extreme wealth and punishing poverty, has fostered some of the fiercest segregation by race, ethnicity, and poverty in this country:
The median net worth for New Jersey’s white families is $271,402—the highest in America.
The median net worth for New Jersey’s Hispanic and Black families is just $7,020 and $5,900, respectively, together totaling less than 5 percent of the net worth of white families in the state.
Of the approximately 585,000 Black and Latino public school students in New Jersey, 63% of them attend schools that are more than 75% non-white.
Nearly half of all Black and Latino public school students attend schools that are more than 90% non-white.
More than 40 percent of white students attend schools that are at least 75% white.
“New Jersey cannot fulfill the promise of Brown, or the promise owed to our kids, without this lawsuit,” said Haygood. “No amount of good will, well wishes, or optimism will accomplish the systemic relief and fundamental transformation that is required. Integration is possible, it is necessary, and it is long overdue.”

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