With data showing far more students of color receiving suspensions and expulsions than their white peers, Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Yvonne Lopez and Annette Chaparro have sponsored legislation to address the issue by creating a task force to examine school disciplinary actions throughout the state. The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee on Monday.
“We cannot stand by and allow students of color to be adversely affected by potentially unfair policies that could impact their entire educational career,” said Assemblywoman McKnight (D-Hudson). “When African American and Hispanic students in New Jersey are anywhere from 2.4 to 5.4 times more likely to be suspended than white students, the cause of such a significant disparity must be further explored.”
Under the bill (A-4238), members would be charged with studying and evaluating the disciplinary policies and practices of New Jersey schools. Their goal will be to analyze the effectiveness of established practices in reducing problematic behavior, while determining whether the practices lead to any unequal impact on students of color.
“Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s actually the best way to do it,” said Assemblywoman Lopez (D-Middlesex). “For the sake of our students’ development and wellbeing, it’s important we continuously evaluate school policies to ensure they are actually helping children become successful members of society.”
The task force would be comprised of ten members with education-related knowledge or involvement. In addition to studying existing policies, members would also conduct research on emerging disciplinary methods to find alternative ways of creating a positive, non-discriminatory school environment.
Within 12 months of its creation, the task force would submit its findings and recommendations to the New Jersey Governor and Legislature.
“This task force would help us determine what needs to be done to improve our schools and make sure that every student – regardless of their race – receives fair and equal treatment,” said Assemblywoman Chaparro (D-Hudson). “Students throughout our state would greatly benefit from the valuable insight of a thorough investigation.”
The bill will now go to the Speaker for further review.