Youth of Color, Black-Led Organizations, and Community Advocates Celebrate Bills on Transparency in School Discipline and Reporting of Number of Mental Health Counselors

December 21, 2021

Yesterday, A1184, a bill which requires school-level data on school discipline broken down by race, and A4838, which requires school-level data on the number of mental health counselors, passed key final hurdles when the New Jersey General Assembly voted to support both measures with overwhelming bipartisan support. A4838 had been watered down in Spring 2021 to remove the reporting of security guard and law enforcement personnel in schools. Both bills will be delivered to Governor Murphy’s desk soon. He is expected to sign both.

As the state emerges from an unprecedented public health crisis, in which racial and economic inequities have worsened, by watering down A4838, the legislature has missed an opportunity to investigate the overpolicing in majority Black and Brown schools that denies them access to an equitable education and that meets the needs of the moment and invests in our communities. The legislature must directly address the racial inequities in majority Black and Brown schools to end the school-to-prison pipeline.

Armani Ruffin, Make the Road New Jersey Youth Power Project member, said: “According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection reports, 60% of white students in New Jersey attend schools without guards. Only 35% of Latinx students, and 31% of Black students, do. The presence of guards in schools increases the likelihood that normal youth behavior will be criminalized. 

We must end the culture of controlling Black and Brown students. Instead, we should be given support and agency. It is time to recognize the harm that policing has caused. 

Passing A4838 and A1184 is a step in the right direction and I know that I and my fellow Youth Power Project members are eager to work with the our lawmakers to continue to bring light to and stop the overpolicing in Black and Brown school and invest in the things that we need to thrive like restorative justice programs, more counselors, social workers, quality lunch, etc.”

Joe Johnson, Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said: “The time for New Jersey to require that schools publish detailed data on disciplinary actions is long overdue – and passing A1184/S1020 and A4838/S2811 is a good place to start. We’ll continue collaborating with students, advocates, and lawmakers to ensure data is made public on the number and type of security personnel present in New Jersey schools.”

Zellie Imani, educator and community organizer with Black Lives Matter Paterson, said: “Elected officials will say they want data driven solutions, while at the same time limiting bills ability to collect data. This logic hasn’t led to less school violence, but more. Making our schools safe for all begins with full transparency.”

Yolanda Greene, Newark-based community advocate, said: “Data helps drive the conversation about educational equity. So glad our legislature passed A1184/S1020 and A4838/S2811 which require more reporting on school discipline and number of mental health counselors, respectively. We can’t fix it, if we can’t clearly name it.”

On behalf of MapSO Freedom School, Thomas Whitaker, educator, said: "The wisdom of our elders has taught us that a lack of transparency not only creates distrust, but also a deep sense of insecurity. Passing A1184/S1020 and A4838/S2811 is a step in the right direction for Black and Latinx families in New Jersey. They can continue the work of holding school districts accountable for their investment in social and mental health services.”

Organizations who joined in the demand that the original language of A4838 be restored to include the reporting of the number of law enforcement and security personnel in schools included: American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Antiracism in Action, Badass Teachers Association, Black Community Watchline, Black Lives Matter Paterson, Education Law Center, Faith in New Jersey, The Gem Project, Inc., Make the Road New Jersey, MapSO Freedom School, Newark Communities for Accountable Policing (N-CAP), New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey 21 United, North Jersey DSA, League of Women Voters of New Jersey, Youth4Justice New Jersey, Salvation and Social Justice, and Wind of the Spirit.

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