New Jersey Schools Accused of “Apartheid” in Report

A new report takes aim at New Jersey’s public schools, describing the segregation of black and Latino students into certain schools as an “apartheid” system.

The Institute on Education Law and Policy at Rutgers University released the report making that characterization, along with another report issued by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA on segregation in New Jersey schools.

The Record (NorthJersey.com) reports that the Rutgers report found that 13 percent of Hispanic students attend schools where 1 percent or less of students are white, and that an additional 29 percent of Latinos attend schools where 10 percent or fewer of students are white. Students also experience double segregation because of separation by poverty (and for Hispanics, even triple, when language is involved.)

The study notes that New Jersey became one of the first states to bar racially segregated schooling by race, in 1881, and then barred segregation in public schools in 1947. But that doesn’t mean that residential segregation doesn’t still persist.

Attorney Paul Trachtenberg, who brought many education civil rights cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court, led the Rutgers study and decided to use the controversial terminology.

“I find it extremely depressing that New Jersey has what I believe is the strongest state constitution requiring racial balance in the schools, and we have done pretty much zero with that,” he told the Record.

The report suggests integration strategies such as school district mergers, more magnet schools, diversity goals for charter schools, and allowing students to transfer from one public school system to another.

Trachtenberg was an attorney in the years-long Abbott v. Burke case, which has resulted in allocating more funding to poor districts and preschool programs in poorer districts.

Experts do credit that case for improving funding for poorer districts. But money is not a remedy for segregation.

“On the one hand, New Jersey is at the forefront of equity because of the Abbott case,” Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation told the newspaper. “More than any other state, it has poured enormous resources into high-poverty schools. But there is this huge issue of economic segregation that New Jersey has yet to address.”

The Civil Rights Project points out that not all the news is negative, and that the number of diverse schools is rising.

Related Links:

“Rutgers Study Compares Racial Divide in N.J. Schools to ‘Apartheid,'” NJ.com

– “A Status Quo of Segregation: Racial and Economic Imbalance in New Jersey Schools, 1989-2010,” Civil Rights Project/Institute on Education Law and Policy.

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Study Analyzes Suspension Rates by Race, Ethnicity and Disability

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA has released a study of nearly 7,000 school districts finding that about 7 percent of Latino students received out-of-school suspensions at least once during the 2009-10 school year.

The “Opportunities Suspended” report used federal data and also found that 5 percent of white students and 17 percent of black students received out-of-school suspensions. Male students with disabilities had particularly high suspension rates. The data represented about 85 percent of the nation’s public school students. The group warned that students who are suspended at high rates are more likely to drop out and end up in the juvenile justice system.

These averages obscure the fact that there are school districts and states with significantly higher suspension rates. In Connecticut, about 14 percent of Latino students had been suspended at least once–the highest average of any state in the nation. In the Hartford, Connecticut, schools about 44 percent of Latino students had been suspended. In the Thornton Township High School District in Illinois, about 42 percent of Latino students had been suspended.

The report warned that suspension rates among minority male students with disabilities were disturbingly high. This group of students was also likely to be suspended multiple times within the same year. In the Chicago Public Schools, about 29 percent of Latino male students with disabilities had been suspended at least once, compared with a shocking 73 percent of black students and 20 percent of white students.

However, some districts recorded lower suspension rates of Latino students than white students. In the Memphis City Schools, about 29 percent of Latino male students with disabilities had been suspended at least once. By comparison, about 53 percent of black students and 36 percent of white students had suspensions. However, in Memphis, the suspension rates among all racial and ethnic groups was disturbingly high.

Earlier in the summer, the project, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against the Fall River Public Schools in Massachusetts for its high suspension rates of minority and disabled students. Data there revealed that 23 percent of Latino students, 26 percent of black students and 13 percent of white students had been suspended.

Education Week reporter Lesli Maxwell poses an interesting question on her Learning the Language blog: How often are English language learners suspended? It’s not a question that’s answered in the report, unfortunately.

You can mine these data to find out where your district or state stands compared with the national average.

Related Links:

– “Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School.” The Civil Rights Project. 

– “Fall River Public Schools suspend black and Latino students, and students with disabilities, at unusually high rates.” The Civil Rights Project.

– “Researchers sound alarm over black student suspensions.” Education Week.

– “Disabled students almost twice as likely to be suspended, analysis finds.” The New York Times. 

– “Fall River schools facing scrutiny.” The Boston Globe.