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Black and Hispanic students in New Jersey public schools are being suspended more often than white students, according to a new state report.

The report covered detailed disciplinary data on the district- and school-level for the 2022-23 school year. This is the first time schools have had to provide the information due to a new law. Before this, only statewide data was available.

State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D., Somerset), the bill's sponsor, said, "It's important that we get the data so we are not guessing. Now we have the data. It is clearly showing that there is a racial disparity in disciplinary action," the Inquirer reported.

The report mentioned that students of color were disciplined more harshly than white students for the same actions, adding that this was a national trend.

Statewide, 9% of Black students were suspended during the 2022-23 school year, which was more than three times the 2.7% of white students suspended. Over 4% of Hispanic students and 1.2% of Asian and Pacific Islander students were suspended in the same year.

Although Black students make up only 15.5% of New Jersey's student population, they represent 29.8% of school referrals to law enforcement and 28.9% of school arrests, according to the Department of Education.

Policy counsel for ACLU-NJ Joe Johnson explained that this disparity was due to racial bias, highlighting that there were at least twelve ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights into claims of discriminatory discipline in New Jersey.

Johnson shared his concern that Black students were not only suspended more often, but also reported to the police. The report found that nearly half of the over 10,000 incidents reported to the police were not mandatory like assaults or weapons offenses, leading to 552 arrests.

"In an ideal world, the police would only be involved when they are required," Johnson added. "There is work to be done to determine why there are so many referrals."

The report mentioned that 61,132 students were suspended at least once, with 44,261 receiving out-of-school suspensions. Most students were suspended once for less than a week, but many were suspended multiple times.

In South Jersey, the districts with the largest gaps between suspension rates for white and Black or Hispanic students included Collingswood, Haddon Township, Cherry Hill, Haddon Heights, Palmyra, Mount Laurel, Clayton, Moorestown, Glassboro, Lumberton, Rancocas and Cinnaminson.

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