Education Law Center, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization with a history of championing adequate and equitable school funding and student rights, has joined the team of attorneys representing the plaintiffs in Latino Action Network v. State (LAN), the school desegregation lawsuit initiated in 2018. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy issued a ruling in the case in October; the LAN plaintiffs and the State of New Jersey are now engaged in mediation.
“ELC joins this case because we strongly support the goals advanced by the plaintiffs and their counsel: to remedy the racial segregation that offends the core rights of students, including the guarantee of a thorough and efficient education, under our state constitution,” said Robert Kim, ELC’s Executive Director. “Adequate resources and integrated school communities are both key parts of the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a high-quality education for all public school children.”
“ELC is committed to supporting plaintiffs and this stellar legal team, and to engaging in constructive dialogue with the State and with community stakeholders to ensure that New Jersey students have increased opportunities to learn in diverse school settings,” added Jessica Levin, ELC’s Acting Litigation Director.
ELC joins a counsel team that includes Lawrence S. Lustberg and Ruth O’Herron of Gibbons, P.C., lead counsel, and Michael Stein and Roger Plawker of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, P.C., who have represented the plaintiffs from the inception of the lawsuit in 2018. In addition, former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein, chair of the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools and longstanding ELC board member, is a key adviser in the litigation.
“We welcome ELC to the legal team not only because of the organization’s 50 years of experience litigating and advocating in support of public education, but also because of ELC’s strong commitment to the communities it represents,” Mr. Lustberg said.
The LAN lawsuit asserts that intense school segregation throughout New Jersey violates several provisions of the state constitution—prohibiting racial segregation in schools, guaranteeing a “thorough and efficient” system of public education for all children in the state, and ensuring the equal protection of the law—as well as state statutes protecting students’ rights. Defendants named in the suit are the New Jersey State Board of Education, the Commissioner of Education, and the State itself.
Studies reveal that New Jersey’s schools remain among the most segregated in the nation, with the fifth highest level of intense segregation among Black students and the fourth highest level among Hispanic students. During the 2022-23 school year, nearly 248,000 Black and Hispanic students (38%) in New Jersey attended schools with student populations that were more than 90% Black and/or Hispanic, and 27% of white students attended schools with student populations that were more than 75% white.
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