Lawsuit Seeks To End Segregation In NJ Schools

May 17, 2018

Members of the New Jersey Coalition For Diverse And Inclusive Schools announce their lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights groups in New Jersey seeks to have the courts strike down provisions of state education law.

Retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein chairs the Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools. He says the lawsuit challenges the segregation of public and charter schools by race, ethnicity, and poverty.

“New Jersey’s public school segregation results from a long standing failure of state educational policy that legally and morally indefensible.”

Although segregation in public schools in New Jersey is prohibited, Ryan Haygood with the Institute for Social Justice says schools in the state are among the most segregated in the nation.

“New jersey has been complicit in the creation and persistence of school segregation because it requires that students attend public schools in the municipalities in which they live.”

Elise Boddie is a constitutional law professor at Rutgers and the former director of the NAACP’s legal defense fund.  She says hundreds of thousands of students are still forced to learn in segregated classrooms. 

“We cannot afford to ignore this problem any longer. Our state is becoming more diverse, but segregation is becoming worse and we have to do better.”

The coalition says segregation prevents hundreds of thousands of Black, Latino, and poor students from reaching their full potential.

Christian Estevez with the Latino Action Network says the lawsuit is intended to change that.

“We need to fix a major injustice.  And we need to fix it because it’s the moral and right thing to do. I pray that we’re successful not just for Latino families, not just for Black families, but for white families and all of New Jersey. And hopefully it will serve as an example to the rest of the country.” 

The coalition says it may take several years to solve the problem. Among the remedies it suggests are voluntary transfer plans for children to be able to attend schools in other districts and magnet schools that would include students from both urban and suburban schools.