NAACP charging New Jersey district’s practice of placing students in separate academic levels amounts to racial segregation
According to the South Orange Patch, the local unit of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has passed a resolution that is the first step in bringing a lawsuit against the South Orange-Maplewood School District (SOMSD) to end what the unit calls "racial segregation" in the district. The unit’s goal is "immediate deleveling from grades eight to 12, as quickly as possible," said Thomas Puryear, Unit President of the NAACP’s Oranges and Maplewood Division. If the resolution passes the review of the national NAACP offices, the group will file suit against SOMSD for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights’ Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funding.
Puryear described the current system of levels, known in many districts as "tracking," as "damaging." Leveling can be described as the separation of students into academic tracks by achievement. SOMSD students are placed in levels based on their scores on the state standardized test, teacher recommendations and grades. At South Orange Middle School, in language arts, 63 percent of the students in Level 4 classes (the highest academic level) are white. In Level 3, 68 percent of the students are black. Level 2 classes are overwhelming comprised of black students—90 percent, according to district data.
Puryear noted that other districts may also face legal action from the local NAACP. The group is pursuing an unleveled district, with particular focus on grades eight through 12. Advanced Placement classes would be removed from the curriculum, and classes would be taught at a single level, much as they are in lower grades. The next step in the pending lawsuit belongs to the NAACP’s legal team at the national level. The national staff of the NAACP has not yet responded.
Source: South Orange Patch, 7/13/10, By Marcia Worth
[Editor's Note: The text of the NAACP Oranges and Maplewood Division Unit's resolution is available in the body of the Patch article.
In a similar suit decided in 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (AL, GA, FL) affirmed that a school district’s program of "ability grouping" or "tracking," in which students are grouped into different academic tracks based on their abilities, does not violate minority students’ equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A summary of the opinion is available below.]