Black Parents Workshop School (In)Equity Report and Settlement

The Black Parents Workshop's (BPW) School (In)Equity Report and Settlement Terms were posted to their website around mid-July:

https://blackparentsworkshop.org/

For reference: February 27, 2018: The Black Parents Workshop, Inc. filed a federal lawsuit (Docket 2:18-CV-02726) in U.S. District Court in the District of New Jersey in Newark on behalf of four plaintiffs’ families against the South Orange-Maplewood (New Jersey) School District alleging violations of federal and state laws. The lawsuit is based on a pattern of policies and practices that have discriminated against African-American students.

My first impressions:

  1. The South Orange Maplewood School Inequity Report_Coughlan_FINAL shows stark inequities by race and economic status within SOMSD. 
    1. Disparities in academic access and outcomes
    2. Disparities around student disciplinary actions
    3. These seem to align with the findings in the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) complaint from 2014
    4. Also, the the percentages of Black students enrolled in SOMSD have reduced each year for the past 15 years (pg 8). This demographic trend does not appear to be stabilizing or reversing.
  2. Distracting to me in this Report are the inconsistencies in years of data presented in the report's graphs. Few show trends over time, and there is no reasoning provided for the variation in years chosen. 
    1. Were these the most recent data publicly available for each analysis? 
    2. Or would showing current data, or trends over time, have indicated district improvement, and reduced support for the allegations?)
    3. Some dates of analysis are presented indicating calendar year (e.g., 2015) rather than the academic year, (e.g., 2014-2015 or 2015-2016) or season of the year (e.g., Spring 2015)
    4. It seems strange that the FINAL (In)Equity report was published without any date of publication on it.
  3. Here are the main points of the settlement agreement. Nothing strikes me as a significant shift from the district's current approach, but there are a few new specifics, such as oversight requirements, and inclusion of BPW input on integration plan.
    1. Equity scholar Dr. Edward Fergus to develop the student reassignment plan for the integration of the district’s K-5 elementary schools, with the expectation of the full integration of the district’s elementary schools for Fall 2021, and to advise on the creation of programs and supports the district must fund to facilitate Black students’ enrollment in advanced-level classes.
    2. The Black Parents Workshop will have input into the development of the integration plan, and in the event of any conflicts, can seek relief in the court.
    3. The South Orange-Maplewood School District agrees to publicly report the class enrollments by race and gender, for each school, in grades 6-8 and 9-12.
    4. The South Orange-Maplewood School District agrees to publicly report suspensions and expulsions by race and gender, for each school in the district.
    5. The South Orange-Maplewood School District agrees to create the position of Assistant Superintendent for Equity and Access, and that individual will monitor the district’s progress in meeting the terms of this Settlement Agreement.
    6. The South Orange-Maplewood School District will provide verification from the New Jersey Department of Education to the Black Parents Workshop, Inc. that the district is in full compliance with the state-mandated Amistad Black History curriculum.
    7. The South Orange-Maplewood School District agrees to work with the Black Parents Workshop, Inc. to develop relationships with historically Black colleges and universities for the purpose of identifying Black teacher candidates for the district.
    8. The South Orange-Maplewood School District agrees to pay all Plaintiffs in this litigation.
    9. The South Orange-Maplewood School District agrees to pay the legal fees of the Black Parents Workshop Inc.
    10. The Black Parents Workshop Inc. retains the right to seek relief in federal court if any of the provisions of this Settlement Agreement are not met by the South Orange-Maplewood School District.
  4. My questions, not answered in any documentation I can find, are around SOMSD's Comprehensive Equity Plan (including the Access and Equity policy of October of 2015, which started with a slow implementation in the 2016-2017 school year). Specifically, have these had any impact on the inequities reported? The district's documentation are not well organized -- they are scattered in different sections of the SOMSD website, and some documents are undated. Hopefully the oversight requirements from OCR and the BPW settlement will encourage the district to better organize the information, and more clearly answer questions around improvement.
    1. https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/district/human-resources/cep/
    2. https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/board-of-education/accessandequity/

    3. https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/board-of-education/board-of-education-overview-2-2-2/

    4. And the restorative practices approach and Code of Conduct, which had one update in 2017, and received another update October 2019 (https://villagegreennj.com/schools-kids/somsd-revised-code-of-conduct-addresses-hate-speech-student-ids-police-intervention/).

  5. A Settlement Press Release is also available for download from the Black Parents Workshop website. The release reviews some lawsuit achievements, steps the district has taken since the lawsuit filing, as well as critiques. It also announces the new leadership of the Black Parents Workshop, and indicates some of the historical fractures and alliances across individuals, various community groups and BOE. I found it an interesting read.


One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Elissa Malespina, has declared her candidacy for Board of Education.

She also ran in 2015 but lost.


There were also monetary awards for the plaintiffs as part of the settlement, including for Elissa Malespina.


From July:

With the monetary amounts of the financial settlements now available, Malespina shared, “The $25K that is in our name is going to the MapSO Freedom School. The $5K which is specifically in my son’s name will he used for college expenses.”

Financial Details Revealed in Settlement Against South Orange-Maplewood; Malespina to Donate $25K (Village Green)




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