Mark Law Firm Blog

Race & Disability Discrimination in South Orange-Maplewood Schools

Posted by Frank Butterfield on Oct 31, 2014 12:00:00 PM


Student tracking and school discipline practices may unfairly affect students of color and those with disabilities in New Jersey, or so it has been alleged in the South Orange-Maplewood School District.

Recently, a complaint was brought against the South Orange-Maplewood School District in Essex County, New Jersey, alleging that the district’s tracking of students and discipline procedures are placing an inordinate number of minority students into lower-level courses and disproportionately punishing minority and disabled students. The ACLU and Center for Civil Rights Remedies of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, claiming violations of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Looking at the numbers, it is not surprising that action was taken. According to the ACLU’s press release, “[W]hile white students make up slightly less than half of the student body, 70 percent of the higher-level classes are filled by white students, while 70 percent of the lower-level classes are filled by black students.”  Where this is most notable is in the failure to place otherwise qualified minority students into higher-level classes so that they are eligible for advanced placement courses.   

Regarding the district’s discipline practices, the data presented by the ACLU demonstrated that “black students had a 15.9 percent chance of being receiving an out-of-school suspension, compared to the overall suspension rate of 10.7 percent.” The likelihood of out-of-school suspension for white students was only 3.5 percent.  This equates to black students being 4.5 times more likely to be suspended out of school than white students.  In addition, students with disabilities, for whom accommodations are mandated under state and federal law, were still 2.5 times more likely to be suspended out of school than their non-disabled peers.

The South Orange-Maplewood School District is just one glaring example of the issues faced by minority and disabled students in New Jersey schools.  All parents have a right to question the decisions made by their local school distriacts – whether it be their practices and policies relating to student placement in academic courses or the level of discipline meted out for violations of school’s code of conduct.  Far too often, parents are not informed or not given adequate explanation as to the decisions that affect their children’s academic careers.

If you are a parent who feels your child has been unfairly denied placement or disciplined disproportionately, consulting with an attorney who practices education law will help you to understand your rights and the rights of your children and guide you through the administrative procedures to achieve a successful outcome for your child.

For more information on the law relating to discrimination and student rights in Maplewood, New Jersey Schools, contact the Mark Law Firm for a consultation.   The attorneys at the Mark Law Firm practice throughout the state of New Jersey.  Contact us at 973-440-2311 or click “contact us” and tell us how we can help you.

New Call-to-action

Photo credit: Joe Wolf, Hallway Still Life


Topics: Discrimination & Harassment, Education Law