New Jersey's AG and DOE Announce Guidance on Anti-Bias School Initiatives & Law Against Discrimination
New Jersey, June 26, 2023 - Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Acting Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan announced today that the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) and DOE have issued joint guidance on anti-bias initiatives in schools. They address rising concerns about bias and hate, urging continued efforts towards inclusivity in alignment with the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
"To address the rising tide of bias and hate, many schools across our State have adopted anti-bias initiatives, policies, and curricula that recognize and value the identities and experiences of students from historically excluded communities," the statement read.
The DCR and DOE encourage all schools to continue developing and implementing such initiatives, maintaining inclusive markers and symbols, ensuring students have access to diverse literature, and adhering to the state’s anti-bias curricula requirements regarding race, gender, LGBTQIA+, disability, and diversity.
However, recent proposals have emerged in New Jersey and nationwide aiming to restrict classroom discussions about race, racism, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation; to remove symbols supporting or opposing bullying of historically excluded groups; and to ban books about people of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
The joint statement clarifies that under the LAD, schools are prohibited from adopting policies or practices that discriminate against students or staff based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or other protected characteristics. The LAD also disallows policies or practices that create a hostile environment based on any protected characteristic.
Furthermore, the removal of books or symbols that represent specific historically excluded groups could lead to a discrimination or hostile educational environment claim under the LAD. Policies banning flags or symbolic speech, or any other policies applied in a discriminatory manner, may also be in violation of the LAD.
Students, caretakers, community members, staff, and school board members are encouraged to report evidence of discrimination, bias-based harassment, or retaliation to the DCR immediately.
For more information or to file a complaint, visit NJCivilRights.gov or call 1.833.NJDCR4U. The DCR enforces the LAD, ensuring protection against discrimination for all people in New Jersey. Reporting LAD violations or filing a discrimination complaint can be done without fear of retaliation.