Bill requiring racial discrimination, social justice instruction in NJ middle schools passes Assembly

Cyril Josh Barker | 11/5/2020, midnight
Middle school students in New Jersey would learn about racial discrimination and social justice as part of their social studies ...
School/education Pixabay

Middle school students in New Jersey would learn about racial discrimination and social justice as part of their social studies lessons under legislation approved Oct. 29 by the State Assembly by a vote of 56-7-9.

The measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway and Carol Murphy would require the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Amistad Commission, to provide school districts with age-appropriate sample activities and resources designed to enhance students’ overall understanding of issues surrounding racial discrimination and social justice.

“We often look to the next generation as a symbol of hope for a brighter future,” Conaway and Murphy said in a joint statement. “To reach that better tomorrow, it’s incumbent upon us to teach our children of both our triumphs and failures, our progress and lingering injustices.”

The assembly members added that the new law would require students to learn more about the Black experience beyond what is already offered in schools.

“Black history is American history,” they said. “Middle school students typically learn about slavery, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, but there’s more we can do to teach children about racial discrimination and social justice issues that are tightly interwoven into the fabric of our past and present. These lessons are too important not to have a place in our classrooms.”

Several recent racial incidents have been reported at New Jersey middle schools and high schools.

Over the summer a Black mother at Buzz Aldrin Middle School in Montclair reported that her daughter endured two years of racial bullying. The mother alleged that her daughter was bullied online because she is Black. The girl was also assaulted and called racial slurs by white students.

Last month during a virtual assembly at Lawrence Middle School, staff shut down the event after a person was online using a racial slur as a username. School officials are investigating to find out who the person was. The virtual assembly was on YouTube and that company is assisting with the investigation along with local police.

In 2019, four Black middle schoolers in Lawrence were racially harassed at a football game at Lawrence High School. Two male students were charged with bias intimidation and lewdness.