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New Jersey News

Young Black Schoolchildren Discriminated Against in Newark, Parents Say

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Parents and school groups in Newark are hoping a federal investigation into the city's school reorganization plan will spur change in the school district, sooner rather than later.

The U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights said Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into the One Newark plan. The plan includes consolidating or relocating almost a third of the city's schools.

"Most of these school co-locations and closings are for middle school and elementary school children, who will have to take a bus out of their neighborhood area and go to areas that they're probably not familiar with," said Sharon Smith, with the group Parents Unified for Local School Education, or Pulse.

Pulse filed a complaint in May, alleging the plan discriminates against black students. Smith said that while black students make up about half of the city's school district, more than 80 percent of those affected by the reorganization plan are black.

Okaikor Aryee-Price, also with Pulse, said the community wasn't given a fair chance to weigh in on the policies before they were implemented.

"These are racist policies, and when we think about racist policies, we're thinking about how people, communities of color, are being impacted the most without consideration," she said.

Charlotte Hitchcock, with Newark Public Schools, said the One Newark plan is "not discriminatory," and strives toward "equity and excellent educational options" for all students. She said the district will cooperate with the investigation.

With The Associated Press