Recently, Governor Phil Murphy signed over 100 new bills into law on the first day of his second term, including S1020 and S2811. This is a step in the right direction and a victory for the hundreds of students of color who are disproportionately affected by the lack of transparency and accountability of disciplinary policies and practices in schools in New Jersey.
Laws S2811 and S1020, will require school report cards to include information concerning the number of mental health professionals and school safety specialists employed by each school district. They will also require school report cards to include a demographic breakdown of students who receive disciplinary actions.
New Jersey has among the widest racial gaps in the United States, suspending Black and brown students at far greater rates than their white peers. Black students are 5.4 times more likely to face out-of-school suspension compared with white students, while Hispanic students are 2.4 times more likely.
This decision would have not been possible without the mobilizing and organizing of hundreds of youth and people’s organizations, including Make the Road New Jersey, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ), Black Lives Matter Patterson, and others who sent a letter calling on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Senate and Assembly leadership to pass A1184/S1020. You can read the full letter here.
Awwal Lawal, a Youth Member at Make the Road New Jersey and High School Sophomore said: “In my school, like many majority Black and brown schools across the country, there’s a belief that students of color need to be policed. These two laws will allow us to begin the process of accountability and transparency to heal from the traumas caused by COVID-19 and decades of systemic inequities. We will continue to call for bold and transformative investments to meet both our academic social and emotional needs over school policing.”
Zellie Thomas, Organizer with Black Lives Matter Paterson said: “Too often, the experiences and policy recommendations by activists and community leaders are ignored because of lack of data. The signing of these laws is a big step into our journey in making schools safe for all.”
Joe Johnson, Policy Counsel with ACLU-NJ said: "These new laws are a great first step toward greater transparency in schools. By shedding light on discipline records and the mental health supports available at schools, we will better understand the systemic inequities that disproportionately impact Black and brown students. We look forward to working with lawmakers to provide an equitable education to all students and put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline."
Marleina Ubel, Policy Analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective said: “Access to this data is a big win for transparency, and transparency is how we get to accountability. There is still a lot of work to do so students of color feel safe, but this is a step in the right direction.”
Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, Organizer with MapSO Freedom School said: “We can’t transform that which we can’t see. For years, school discipline organizers and policy analysts have had to rely on the often delayed and outdated data from the federal government. This win puts us one step closer to raising awareness and getting clarity on the disciplinary policies and practices that have historically, structurally, and disproportionately impacted Black students.”
Rebecca Raftery, Legal Fellow at Education Law Center said: “S1020 and S2811 will provide much-needed transparency regarding school discipline in New Jersey. This data is crucial for students, families, and advocates to hold schools accountable and is one step towards ensuring that all students feel safe and supported in their learning environments.”