New Jersey School Desegregation Lawsuit Could Bring Changes to Public Schools

An ongoing lawsuit claiming New Jersey schools aren't desegregated could bring sweeping changes to public schools.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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new jersey desegregation

Its been nearly 68 years since schools in the nation were officially desegregated following the monumentally historic U.S. Supreme Court case following Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. However, a school in New Jersey claims desegregation is failing in the state. An ongoing lawsuit in the garden state could bring sweeping changes to public schools all around New Jersey, as it claims the schools are unconstitutionally segregated.

The New Jersey desegregation lawsuit has been making its way through the court system since 2018. Now, the lawsuit has landed in the hands of state Judge Robert Lougy, the assignment judge for Mercer vicinage. Being filed by the Latino Action Network and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference among other groups, the lawsuit looks to Judge Lougy to direct the state to act on a verdict. 

Deputy attorney general Christopher Weber states that the plaintiff asks the court to find the state’s public school system guilty of “unconstitutionally” segregating students in schools. And in order to get New Jersey desegregation in alliance with the constitution, Weber believes the state needs a “complete overhaul” to the system in place. But what exactly do the backers of this plaintiff think needs to be done in order to desegregate the state’s public schools?

As for the solution to the issues with New Jersey desegregation, Attorney Lawrence Lustberg and others still remain unclear on how to desegregate the New Jerseys schools furthermore. According to Lustberg, the remedy phase can not be planned or implemented until the liability is determined. Acknowledging that the process would be cumbersome and lengthy, Lustberg said the first steps needed might be to examine similar segregation issues in other states. Similarly, he suggested solutions through magnet schools, charter schools, and choice programs. 

new jersey desegregation

Resonating similar thoughts to those in favor of school choice, magnet and charter schools aim to alleviate some of the issues facing New Jersey desegregation. Magnet schools are similar to public schools, however, they offer a more focused experience for high schoolers looking to advance in a particular career. Charter schools operate similarly to magnet schools, but with added flexibility. All of these options echo with advocates of school choice, or the ability for children to take publically allocated funds to the school of their choosing. 

According to Lustberg, students shouldn’t have to necessarily attend school in the district they live in, as is the current general rule within New Jersey. Within the state, Lustberg claims that half of African American students and 45% of Hispanic ones attend public schools where more than 90% of students are non-white. However, the state reflects on housing patterns as the cause, saying that the evidence doesn’t show the statewide New Jersey desegregation issue as being unconstitutional. Similarly, the state says that the plaintiff is based on a limited set of data regarding a limited number of school districts. Therefore, it is not a state-wide upheaving issue. Now in the hands of Judge Lougy, it is unknown when the ruling will come on the issue, but given its four-year run in the courtroom and the complexity of the case, it will likely not be immediate.