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Justice Gary S. Stein (Ret.) and Roger Plawker Quoted in Asbury Park Press Regarding School Segregation Lawsuit


The Honorable Gary S. Stein (Ret.), Special Counsel, and Roger Plawker, Partner and Chair of the Attorney Ethics & Professional Misconduct practice, at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, were quoted in the Asbury Park Press article “NJ school desegregation lawsuit moving along, and it could change your child’s life.”

The article discusses the lawsuit brought by the Latino Action Network, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, the Latino Coalition, the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey, the Urban League of Essex County, and children of various racial backgrounds, alleging that persistent segregation has violated the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey’s students.  Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, together with co-counsel Gibbons P.C., represent the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“It’s a public disgrace to the state of New Jersey to be maintaining this extraordinarily segregated public school system,” said Gary Stein, chair of the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools and a former state supreme court judge. “More than 275,000 Black and Latino students in New Jersey attend public schools that are more than 90% non-white. That is an outrageous statistic.”

Stein is among a group of legal scholars and education advocates who set out to reverse the situation with the 2018 lawsuit against the state that demands recognition of the problem and a solution to fix it.

The article notes that it has been nearly four years since the complaint was filed:

“We believe there is more the governor could have done to be more proactive in moving the case and was not; certainly, politics played a role in that," said Roger Plawker, one of the lead attorneys on the case. "Whether his reelection gives him more freedom to approach it differently remains to be seen.”

“Ultimately we feel that the state was fighting it more than it was looking to work cooperatively on a solution,” Plawker said.

The article further notes that a hearing on a motion for summary judgement is set for January 22, 2022:

“The issue is now ripe to be determined on the motion pending,” said Plawker. “It is a historically difficult issue for elected officials, but as we progress as a society, we think the hard work has to be done in order to make the changes needed to achieve an equitable outcome not only for our society as a whole but for our children.”

“All of the evidence that has been accumulated on this subject tells us that all children — Black, Latino and white — benefit from desegregation,” said Stein. “Today, a majority of public-school students in America are non-white so it is extremely artificial to educate people in segregated schools when we know that they will eventually be interacting with people different from their own.”

The article concludes with a discussion of the difficulties in fixing the problem:

“We don’t think it is a one-remedy-solves-all answer,” Plawker noted. “There are a number of tools that have been tried around the country. Some of those include magnet school systems, different uses of vocational schools and elements of regionalization.”

“There are a lot of ideas on the table, and we will be soliciting ideas from across the county because this is a big deal,” said Stein. “The remedial phase of this is going to require cooperation, innovation and education of the public and we are anxious to get into that phase. That I think is where this case is headed.”

“I can’t speak to the fear any particular household has or particular town, as a general observation I think it is fair to say that the idea of desegregation creates anxiety among all of the stakeholders involved,” said Plawker. “It is a fear of the unknown, a lack of control over home rule and those were just some of the challenges and barriers that we need to work on and break down because we are trying to accomplish something that we think is vital.”

To view the full article, click here.  

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