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.Yesterday, Attorney General Matt Platkin and Commissioner of Education Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan issued a joint statement announcing a School-Based Anti-Bias Initiative. This is a response from the New Jersey Public Education Coalition (NJPEC).
This announcement is an important step by our Government officials and indicates a broad-based policy regarding bias and hate in our public schools.
It emphasizes the intent of the Division on Civil Rights, Department of Education, and Department of Law & Public Safety to take a hard look not only at actions by Boards of Education that show intent to discriminate, but also those with a discriminatory effect.
The Department of Law & Public Safety has indicated their intent to take a strong position with regard to the application of the “New Jersey Law Against Discrimination” (LAD).
In part, the statement indicates:
“Despite the LAD’s anti-discrimination principles, however, some school boards and legislators have recently introduced proposals in New Jersey and across the country to restrict classroom discussions and staff training about race, racism, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation; to remove symbols or signs that express support for, or oppose bullying of, members of certain historically excluded groups; and to ban books by and about people of color and LGBTQIA+ people. At times, school board members have also opposed efforts to comply with state curricular requirements that students be taught certain topics related to race, gender, or sexual orientation, and have opposed efforts by individual teachers to instruct students on these required materials.”
The statement is a clear confirmation that the positions of the New Jersey Public Education Coalition (NJPEC) with regard to discriminatory actions of “rogue” Boards of Education are violations of the LAD.
For over a year, NJPEC has been asserting that Boards of Education have been taking inappropriate actions by: 1) removing books; 2) removing signs and flags; 3) eliminating safe spaces in schools; 4) passing policy revisions and new policies; and 5) placing barriers on the introduction of mandated student learning standards such as the “2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Fitness.”
The Coalition takes the position that while these actions may not be overtly discriminatory, they have a discriminatory effect and therefore violate the LAD.
NJPEC congratulates and applauds the Department of Education, Department of Law and Public Safety and Division on Civil Rights for recognizing the severity of the situation within our state and for their strong response.
NJPEC will continue its efforts to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in our public schools and to ensure that our public schools are safe and welcoming spaces for all children.
Members of the public who observe actions by Boards of Education that are discriminatory can report them to NJPEC at this link: https://www.njpecoalition.org/report-questionable-activity
Additionally, they may be reported by email to firstname.lastname@example.org