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N.J. Superintendent Calls Out Segregation Problem

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With the recent 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, civil rights and advocacy groups issued reports highlighting the continued segregation in American schools today.

The superintendent of Hamilton Township School District in New Jersey took the unusual step of posting an online commentary on the district’s website lamenting de facto segregation in the school district he leads.

The message, “Separate But Equal? Not an Option” was written by Superintendent James Parla and calls on the courts to address de facto segregation, often resulting from housing patterns. He writes that the district has schools with high percentages of poor and minority students with low test scores and also schools with few minorities, more affluent families, and higher test scores.

He calls the current situation “separate and unequal.” Accompanying his writing, he also posted data by campus that included enrollment numbers, the percentage of minority and disadvantaged students, the age of the campus, and proficiency scores in math and English.

According to a report on the school district’s website, the city of Hamilton Township is about 11 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black, with many foreign-born residents coming from Guatemala.

The school district has 24 campuses and an enrollment of about 12,000 in 2012. According to the district, 64 percent of the district’s Hispanic students are economically disadvantaged.

The Times of New Jersey reported that Parla posted the statement at a time when the district is set to consider building new schools and redistricting students.

“We have to be mindful of what we do and do it in a gradual way,” Parla told the newspaper. “We can’t turn the district upside down, but we have to be mindful as we move forward that we put in a plan that shows we’re cognizant of these issues and can address them in the best way we can.”