Matthew J. Platkin, New Jersey’s attorney general; and Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education,  announced on May 26 the release of the “Addressing Bias in K-12 Schools” resource guide, which provides schools across the state with a comprehensive plan for addressing bias in schools and offers additional resources that schools and others in the school community can use to respond more effectively to bias incidents. The guide was developed by the Division on Civil Rights in collaboration with the NJDOE, according to a news release.

The “Addressing Bias in K-12 Schools” resource guide takes a whole-school approach to addressing bias, encompassing the broader school community, including students, faculty and staff, and families, both victims and perpetrators of bias incidents, as well as bystanders who witness the incidents. It places particular emphasis on offering a range of resources and steps to proactively prevent and respond to instances of bias.

“New Jersey is committed to ensuring that our students can learn without facing hate, racism, or bias in their learning environments,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “By presenting a comprehensive, proactive approach to bias incidents in schools, these recommendations provide our state’s elementary, middle and high schools with the guidance they need to help address underlying issues and create a culture of equity and inclusion for our students to pursue their academic endeavors.”

The guide 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 been working to publish since the Task Force’s comprehensive report and recommendations were published in October 2020. Most recently, in February, DCR partnered with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to develop the “Addressing Bias Incidents on Campus” resource guide, which highlights key state resources and actions dedicated to achieving the goal of safer campuses.

USDOE’s Office for Civil Rights and Justice Unit Release Separate Resource to Confront Discrimination

Also on May 26, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division jointly released a Resource on Confronting Racial Discrimination in Student Discipline.

In a news release, the departments stated that they recognize and appreciate school administrators, teachers and educational staff across the nation who work to administer student discipline fairly, and to provide a safe, positive, and nondiscriminatory educational environment for all students, teachers and other educators.

The resource demonstrates the departments’ ongoing commitment to the vigorous enforcement of laws that protect students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in student discipline. The resource provides examples of the departments’ investigations of such discrimination over the last 10 years, reflecting the long-standing approach and continuity in the departments’ enforcement practices over time and the continuing urgency of ensuring nondiscrimination in student discipline in our nation’s schools.

The resource describes how the departments resolved investigations of 14 school districts in 10 states nationwide – Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.  These investigations, conducted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations, and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, involved concerns of discrimination in schools’ use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, school-based arrests, referrals to law enforcement, involuntary discipline transfers, informal removals and other discipline against Black, Latino and/or Native American students.

The resource demonstrates ways school districts can proactively improve their administration of student discipline.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Safe & Supportive Schools Technical Assistance Centers released a series of fact sheets on how school leaders and members of school communities may support students’ social, emotional, behavioral and academic well-being and success. You can find the fact sheets here. 

OESE Technical Assistance Centers will host webinars on each of the “Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Academic Well-Being and Success” fact sheets. More information is available here.