Trenton, May 17 — On the 50th anniversary of the landmark desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, African-American students in New Jersey continue to be over-represented in special education and are placed in segregated settings at much higher rates than their white counterparts with disastrous consequences, according to data released by a coalition of advocacy organizations today. One in four African-American male students is classified with a disability; only 26% of classified African-American students are included in the general education classroom for 80% or more of the school day, half the rate of white classified students; and 42% of classified African-American students drop out of school.

Diana Autin, Co-Director of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), noted, “African-American and other students of color are still being segregated in New Jersey schools. Today that segregation is often based on over-placement in separate special education classes and schools where they do not receive a quality education and where expectations for their achievement are low. But no less than the race-based segregation of fifty years ago, this separate education is neither equal nor acceptable.”

The coalition released today a summary of its findings. A full report will be issued in June.

The coalition, including SPAN, Education Law Center, the NJ Coalition for Inclusive Education, NJ Protection & Advocacy, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of NJ, pledged to take whatever action necessary to honor the 50-year old decision that stated “Separate is inherently unequal.” The coalition urged local parent groups and African-American and Latino parent groups to join it in addressing these disparities, and called on school districts and the Department of Education to:

  • identify the extent and causes of over-representation and over-segregation; and
  • involve African-American and Latino parents, advocates and community groups as partners in the development and implementation of corrective action plans

ELC Senior Attorney Ruth Lowenkron noted that the inclusion of children with disabilities makes good policy sense. “Study after study has shown that both children with disabilities, as well as their non-disabled peers, receive an inferior education when they are segregated by disability. Segregation in New Jersey must come to a halt immediately.”

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