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Department of Education Investigates Claims of Racial Bias in Newark School Closures

African American students overrepresented in Newark school closures
Credit: The Star-Ledger

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Wednesday that it will investigate the plans for public school closures in Newark, New Jersey, after it was revealed that Black students would be disproportionately affected by the closings.

Reuters reported that several civil rights groups were up in arms when they discovered that the majority of students at the soon-to-be closed Newark public schools are African-American.

One group, the Journey for Justice Alliance and Advancement Project, filed a complaint in May with the Department of Education, slamming the public school system in Newark for racial discrimination and targeting predominantly Black schools when deciding which schools to close.

The complaint also accused the school systems in Chicago and New Orleans of the same offense.

In Newark, Black students make up a little over 50 percent of total public school enrollment, yet they represent more than 70 percent of the students who will be affected by school closures.

Newark school closures racial discrimination
Credit: Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger

White students, on the other hand, are hardly at risk.

While white students made up nearly 8 percent of the same district, a mere 1.1 percent of white students will be affected by the school closings.

The difference in numbers was more than enough to raise a red flag.

Thirteen schools will be closed in Newark as a part of the One Newark school reform plan.

The founder of Parents United for Local School Education, Sharon Smith, does not understand why the district is deciding to shut down more schools in hopes of improving the district overall.

“Closing the doors of public schools is not the way to improve public schools,” Smith said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The timing of the civil rights complaint corresponded with another historical moment in American education.

The complaint was filed on the week that marked the 60th anniversary of the landmark school desegregation Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

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