Task force would examine racial disparities in school discipline

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Urban News Staff Reports

According to data from the Education Law Center, African-American students make up 15 percent of students enrolled in the state's public schools but they make up 40 percent of the students who receive out of school suspensions. Recently passed legislation aims to form a task force to examine racial disparities when it comes to school discipline.

The bill was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Yvonne Lopez and Annette Chaparro and approved by the Assembly Education Committee this week. Under the bill , members would be charged with studying and evaluating the disciplinary policies and practices of New Jersey schools. Their goal will be to analyze the effectiveness of established practices in reducing problematic behavior, while determining whether the practices lead to any unequal impact on students of color.

“We cannot stand by and allow students of color to be adversely affected by potentially unfair policies that could impact their entire educational career,” said McKnight. “When African American and Hispanic students in New Jersey are anywhere from 2.4 to 5.4 times more likely to be suspended than white students, the cause of such a significant disparity must be further explored.”

The task force would be comprised of ten members with education-related knowledge or involvement. In addition to studying existing policies, members would also conduct research on emerging disciplinary methods to find alternative ways of creating a positive, non-discriminatory school environment.

Within 12 months of its creation, the task force would submit its findings and recommendations to the New Jersey Governor and Legislature.

“This task force would help us determine what needs to be done to improve our schools and make sure that every student – regardless of their race – receives fair and equal treatment,” said Chaparro . “Students throughout our state would greatly benefit from the valuable insight of a thorough investigation.”

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