Guidance | Summary
Spotlight on Data | Spotlight on Discriminatory Policies | Spotlight on Discriminatory Enforcement
Spotlight on Evidence of Bias by School Officials | Spotlight on Discriminatory Processes
Spotlight on Disparate Impact Analysis | Spotlight on Policies with a Disparate Impact
Compliance Checklist | Administrator’s Cheat Sheet
TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Acting Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan today announced the release of a comprehensive guidance document on preventing discrimination in school discipline. The document, which was developed by the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) in collaboration with DOE, provides schools across New Jersey with important information to ensure that their student codes of conduct and discipline policies do not discriminate, either intentionally or unintentionally, against students on the basis of a protected characteristic.
The guidance document explains how DCR applies the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) to student discipline, with a particular focus on discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. It further explains what school administrators should do to ensure that their discipline policies and practices comply with the LAD and educates students, faculty, staff, and families on the LAD’s protections against discrimination in school discipline.
The guidance document was developed in response to the recommendations of the Interagency Task Force to Combat Youth Bias in its 2020 report, “An Anti-Bias Vision for the Next Generation.”
“In New Jersey – and across the nation – there have been and continue to be undeniable disparities when it comes to school discipline,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The guidance we are releasing today makes clear that from kindergarten to high school classrooms, Latinx/e and Black students face disproportionate discipline for the same actions committed by their white peers. And nationally, LGBTQ+ students are nearly twice as likely to be suspended from school as non-LGBTQ+ students. These disparities are unacceptable and should alarm us all. Our new guidance provides schools with additional resources to eliminate discrimination and bias and will help ensure greater equity for all New Jersey students.”
“As we introduce the guide for addressing discrimination in school discipline, we embark on a transformative journey towards a more just and equitable educational landscape,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Acting Commissioner of Education. “This comprehensive resource equips schools across New Jersey with the tools to meticulously examine and rectify any discriminatory practices within their disciplinary processes. By erasing the potential for bias, intentional or not, based on protected characteristics, we reaffirm our dedication to fostering an atmosphere that nurtures diversity and fosters understanding.”
“Every student in New Jersey is entitled to a school environment free from discrimination. That means schools have an obligation to ensure that their disciplinary practices are not discriminatory,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of Division on Civil Rights. “Unfortunately, stark disparities in school discipline continue to persist, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that New Jersey’s students are not subject to discriminatory disciplinary practices. The guidance document released today provides critical information that school administrators, teachers, and others in the school community can use to address and combat inequality and discrimination in our schools.”
The guidance cites data demonstrating that the burdens imposed by school discipline have fallen much harder on some students than others. According to data cited in the guidance, New Jersey’s Black students are being suspended at more than 3.3 times the rate of white students, and Latinx/e and multi-racial students are being suspended at 1.5 times the rate of white students, even though students of different races do not misbehave at different rates. The guidance also cites data showing that New Jersey’s students with disabilities are being suspended at 1.7 times the rate of other students. And it points to national data showing that LGBTQ+ students are suspended nationwide at approximately 1.7 times the rate of their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
In response to these disparities, the guidance provides schools with the tools to identify and prevent violations of the LAD’s prohibition against disparate treatment – such as when school staff “discipline students differently because of their race, national origin, gender, disability, or other protected characteristic, even if the differential treatment results from unconscious rather than conscious bias.” It also provides schools with the means to identify and prevent violations stemming from disparate impact – such as when neutral policies or practices have an unequal impact on members of a protected class.
The guidance reminds school and district officials that they have a duty to ensure full compliance with the LAD. The guidance also empowers students, parents, and caregivers by explaining the legal protections the LAD provides for students, and by offering concrete examples of how the LAD applies to common disciplinary scenarios from which disparities can arise.
The guidance also provides recommendations for school administrators to ensure that students are not subjected to discriminatory disciplinary actions. Among other recommendations:
- School administrators should review – and potentially revise – their discipline policies and practices to ensure compliance with the LAD;
- School administrators should collect, monitor, and review all disciplinary data to identify disparities based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability;
- Schools should fully investigate allegations related to possible disparate discipline, including allegations that those with the authority to discipline have engaged in bias-based behavior;
- Schools should solicit feedback from students, parents, employees, and the community about discipline disparities and school climate; and
- All employees responsible for disciplining students should be required to receive non-discrimination training.
The guidance released today is part of a series of resources and initiatives that DCR, DOE, and other partner agencies from the Interagency Task Force to Combat Youth Bias have released in recent months. In February 2023, DCR partnered with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to develop the “Addressing Bias Incidents on Campus” resource guide. In May 2023, DCR and DOE issued the “Addressing Bias in K-12 Schools” resource guide. Both guides highlight key state resources and actions dedicated to achieving the goal of creating safer learning environments.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights enforces the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act, and works to prevent, eliminate, and remedy discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation throughout New Jersey. To find out more information or file a complaint, go to www.njcivilrights.gov.