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Discrimination

 and  Inequity  in  Hoboken’s  Schools  is  Failing  our  Children  


 
Summary  
 
The  collective  and  pervasive  failure  of  the  Hoboken  Public  School  District  to  provide  a  quality  
and  equitable  education  to  Black,  Brown,  and  low-­‐income  students  is  harming  student  
outcomes.  The  inability  to  unlock  the  human  potential  of  all  children,  regardless  of  their  color  
or  economic  status,  is  what  is  at  issue  here.    There  are  clear  patterns  of  discrimination  and  
negligence  when  it  comes  to  providing  a  trusted  learning  environment  that  supports  the  basic  
tenants  of  a  child’s  right  to  a  quality  education,  under  the  law.    These  patterns  of  discrimination  
include:    racial  tracking,  segregating  schools  at  the  elementary  school  level,  limiting  access  to  
pre-­‐k  3-­‐4  programs  and  advanced  classes,  programs,  and  instruction,  subjection  to  harsher  
discipline  practices,  raising  rates  of  classification  and  home  instruction,  and    intentionally  
marginalizing  parents  and  employees  of  color  via  ruinous  hierarchies.  The  combination  creates  
an  atmosphere  that  demoralizes  Black  and  low-­‐income  children  and  separates  children  of  color  
from  their  white  peers.    All  of  these  mechanisms  serve  to  trap,  stigmatize  and  stereotype  these  
children  by  the  third  grade.  These  mischaracterizations  rob  them  of  their  dignity  by  implying  
they  are  incapable  of  learning  at  the  same  level  (or  beyond)  as  their  white  peers,  leaving  the  
impression  that  they  have  no  real  potential  to  contribute  to  society  in  a  positive  and  purposeful  
way.  This  devastating  fiction  about  Black  and  low-­‐income  students  is  used  to  justify  various  
forms  of  segregation  and  exclusionary  practices  perpetuated  by    Board  of  Education  directives,  
the  Superintendent,  other  Senior  Level  Administrators  and  many  of  the  teachers.    Rather  than  
ensuring  all  children  have  having  a  fair  and  equal  chance  to  advance,  Hoboken  is  intentionally  
and  willfully  preventing  that  outcome.        
Hoboken’s  Report  Card  
 
According  to  the  The  State  of  New  Jersey  District  report  Hoboken  Public  School  District  has  a  
racial  achievement  gap  that  is  three  times  greater  than  the  state  average.    In  2016/17,  Hoboken  
school’s  achievement  percentage  for  Black  students  was  12.9%  versus  62.5%  for  White  
students.    This  compares  poorly  to  the  statewide  average  achievement  gap  of  35%  for  Blacks:  
63%  for  Whites.    Great  Schools,  a  non-­‐profit  organization  that  is  a  resource  guide  for  parents,  
rates  Hoboken  Public  School  District  a  2  out  of  10  for  equity  and  student  progress  (10  is  the  
highest  score).    Stanford  University  Center  for  Education  Policy  Analysis  ranked  Hoboken  Public  
School  District  in  the  13th  percentile  for  growth  rates.    According  to  Stanford  results,  
disadvantaged  students  attending  Hoboken  Public  Schools  lose  a  year  of  growth  from  3rd-­‐8th  
grade.    Lastly,  the  State  of  New  Jersey  Department  of  Education  gave  every  public  school,  
including  charter  schools  a  grade.    Connors  Elementary  School,  which  has  the  highest  
concentration  of  Black,  Latino,  and  low-­‐income  students  received  a  grade  of  7  out  of  100  
compared  to  Calabro,  which  received  a  grade  of  84  out  of  100,  and  Wallace  Elementary  which  
received  a  grade  of  37  out  of  100.  Hoboken  Middle  received  a  score  of  8  out  of  100  and  
Hoboken  High  School  received  a  score  of  22  out  of  100.    The  Middle  School  has  a  population  of  
approximately  200  students  of  which  25%  of  the  total  population  is  African-­‐American.    Hoboken  
High  School  has  an  African-­‐American  population  of  approximately  24%  with  a  total  population  
of  445  students.    Additionally,  Hoboken  Public  School  District  has  failed  its  QSAC  scores  for  the  
7th  year  in  a  row  in  Instruction  and  Programming  according  to  the  State  of  New  Jersey  
Department  of  Education.  
 
Through  various  policies  and  initiatives  spearheaded  by  the  Board  of  Education  and  the  
Superintendent  of  Schools,  the  district  is  experiencing  an  accelerated  rate  of  white-­‐washing,  
which  is  a  byproduct  of  the  leaderships’  goal  to  attract  more  white  students  into  the  school  
system.    This  is  a  flawed  strategy,  because  the  emphasis  is  on  flipping  the  student  population,  
and  not  addressing  the  underlying  issues  of  the  school  district’s  inability  to  dramatically  
improve  its  overall  academic  performance,  close  the  achievement  gaps,  and  ensure  students  
are  college-­‐  and  career-­‐ready.    The  Hoboken  Public  School  Districts  continued  
underperformance  is  evident  in  its  low  proficiency  and  college  readiness  scores,  seventh  
straight  year  of  failing  QSAC  in  instruction  and  programming,  low  District  Factor  Group  ranking,  
and  low  and/failing  scores  displayed  in  several  third  party  assessments.    These  outcomes  are  a  
direct  result  of  the  racial  divides  and  the  intentional  social  engineering  of  the  racial  
achievement  gap.      
Conclusion  
 
In  conclusion,  the  Hoboken  Public  School  district  is  comprised  of  a  diverse  student  body  that  is    
extremely  bright  and  imbued  with  the  capacity  to  learn  and  grow  and  become  productive  
members  of  the  community  and  citizens  of  the  world.    Clearly,  the  only  thing  that  is  keeping  
most  of  them  from  achieving  many  of  their  own  personal  goals  of  pursuing  and  achieving  a  
quality  education,  and  a  sturdy  foundation  for  the  future  in  this  competitive  world,  is  a  school  
system  that  believes  all  children  can  learn,  regardless  of  the  color  of  their  skin  or  their  financial  
circumstances.    The  pattern  of  discrimination  can  be  demonstrated  in  processes,  attitudes,  
opinions,  biases,  and  behaviors  in  the  schools  and  evident  in  the  Hoboken  Board  Education’s  
decision-­‐making,  priorities,  pedagogy,  and  its  blatant  disregard  and  retaliatory  nature  towards  
the  financially-­‐  impoverished  students,  parents,  grandparents,  guardians,  and  employees.  The  
continued  marginalization  of  children  disproportionately  damages  Black  and  low-­‐income  
children.  The  current  leadership,  structure,  ideology,  and  culture  of  the  Hoboken  Public  School  
system  is  chronically  ill,  extremely  debilitating,  and  destructive  to  the  enjoyment  of  learning  
and  to  the  holistic  human  development  and  spirit  of  the  children.    
 
January  –  March  2018  
Description  of  systematic  dysfunction  in  Hoboken’s  School  System  
 
Limited  Access  to  Pre-­‐K3  Pre-­‐K4  
The  cycle  first  begins  with  limited  access  and  spots  for  low  income  families  of  color  to  Pre-­‐K3  
and  Pre-­‐  K4  programs.    Despite  Hoboken  being  a  former  Abbott  District  very  few  families  of  low  
income  children  of  color  gain  access  to  free  Pre-­‐K  in  the  District.    Abbott  Districts  were  created  
in  1985  as  a  result  of  the  first  ruling  of  Abbott  v.  Burke,  a  case  filed  by  the  Education  Law  
Center.  The  ruling  asserted  that  public  primary  and  secondary  education  in  poor  communities  
throughout  the  state  was  unconstitutionally  substandard.    There  were  28  Districts,  including  
Hoboken.    Due  to  gentrification,  Hoboken  Public  School  District  is  no  longer  considered  an  
Abbott  District  but  because  of  the  high  Free  and  Reduced  Lunch  student  population,  the  district  
still  receives  some  Abbott  funding  to  pay  for  free  Pre-­‐K  programs  for  all  students.    However,  
many  low  income  families  of  color  have  been  disproportionately  pushed  out  of  spots  for  free  
Pre-­‐K  programs  for  a  more  gentrified  wealthier  student  population,  placing  low  income  children  
of  color  at  a  disadvantage.    Low  income  children  of  color  are  starting  2  years  behind  their  Pre-­‐
K3  Pre-­‐4  counterparts  and  as  a  result  they  are  often  penalized  in  Kindergarten  for  not  
possessing  pro-­‐  social  and  emotional  skills  and  lacking  the  building  blocks  needed  for  reading,  
writing,  and  math.    The  lack  of  thoughtful  consideration  to  this  dynamic  subjects  many  of  these  
children  to  harsh  discipline  that  removes  them  from  the  classroom  and  establishes  a  record  of  
behavioral  issues  that  is  used  against  the  child  for  the  duration  of  his/her  time  in  the  Hoboken  
Public  School  District.    Other  byproducts  of  this  record  are  significantly  decreased  time  in  
instruction,  a  fast  track  to  classification,  and  admittance  only  to  the  segregated  predominately  
Black  and  Latino  and  high  poverty  elementary  school,  Connors  Elementary.  
Example:  A  Hoboken  Housing  Authority  Mother  sent  her  two  children  to  Connors  Elementary  
School.  The  mother’s  six  year  old  wears  her  hair  natural  (Afro  and  Wild)  to  school.    The  child’s  
kindergarten  teacher  thought  the  child’s  hair  looked  unruly  and  tried  to  comb  the  child’s  hair.  
According  to  the  school,  the  child  caused  an  ‘emotional  disturbance’  and  an  ‘unsafe’  learning  
environment.  The  school  demanded  the  mother  remove  her  child  from  the  premises.  The  
mother  refused  being  that  she  was  at  work  and  felt  the  teacher  was  out  of  line  and  hurt  her  
child  by  trying  to  comb  through  the  child’s  hair.  The  school  called  a  police  officer  to  speak  to  the  
mother.    The  officer  threatened  to  put  the  child  in  the  back  of  the  police  car  and  take  the  child  
to  the  emergency  room.    The  mother  got  scared  and  left  her  job  to  pick  her  child  up.      
 
This  same  mother  has  an  8  year  old  the  school  kicked  out  of  school  a  few  days  later.    They  felt  
this  child  was  too  rambunctious  to  be  in  class  and  placed  the  child  on  home  instruction.    For  
days  a  teacher  would  not  come  to  the  home  to  provide  her  child  a  lesson  claiming  they  were  
too  scared  to  go  to  the  “projects.”  After  the  mother  pleaded,  complained,  and  then  threatened  
a  lawsuit,  the  school  agreed  to  let  both  children  back  into  school  if  the  mother  agreed  to  have  
them  classified.    Being  that  the  mother  works  a  full  time  job  and  could  not  afford  to  be  home  
with  her  6  and  8  year  old  waiting  for  home  instruction  that  may  or  may  not  happen,  the  mother  
agreed  to  have  her  children  classified.    The  classified  her  son  with  Bi-­‐Polar  Disorder  and  she  is  
waiting  to  hear  about  her  daughter’s  classification.  There  are  countless  of  stories  like  this  where  
the  lack  of  cultural  competence,  pre-­‐k3  and  pre-­‐k4  access,  discipline,  and  classifications  come  
together  to  the  detriment  of  low  income  students  of  color.                  
 
Classification-­‐    
Aside  from  countless  of  stories  of  low  income  parents  being  forced  to  classify  their  child,  the  
district  does  not  provide  any  support  to  low  income  students  with  IEP’s.    Hoboken  Public  School  
District  has  a  shortage  of  paraprofessionals  and  substitute  teachers,  specifically  for  Connors  
Elementary,  the  Middle  School,  and  the  High  School.    Classified  students  are  entitled  to  special  
services  and  considerations  such  as  one-­‐on-­‐one  support,  extended  time  for  test  taking,  
resource  teachers,  etc.    And  if  a  child  is  classified  for  special  education  they  are  suppose  to  be  
classified.  
Example:  A  black  boy  was  placed  in  special  education  in  the  3rd  grade.    Hoboken  Public  School  
District  never  classified  him.  Special  education  classes  typically  contain  students  with  severe  
learning  difficulties,  behavioral  problems,  and  physical  disabilities.    This  young  man  graduates  
Hoboken  High  School  and  begins  taking  courses  at  Hudson  County  Community  College.    The  
young  man  is  placed  in  all  remedial  classes.    He  has  now  failed  remedial  English  twice.    This  
young  man  has  been  placed  on  academic  probation  and  is  on  the  verge  of  flunking  out.    During  
his  appeal  hearing  the  young  man  and  his  mother  try  to  explain  to  the  Appeal  Committee  that  
the  young  man  was  placed  in  special  education  but  the  district  never  classified  him  and  as  a  
result  he  is  entitled  to  special  consideration,  support,  and  services.    The  Appeal  Committee  told  
the  mother  that  if  she  has  him  classified  they  will  reinstate  her  son  and  provide  him  with  the  
services  and  support  classified  students  will  receive.    The  mother  resides  in  public  housing  and  
cannot  afford  to  pay  for  her  son  to  be  classified.    
   
Racial  Tracking-­‐  
Hoboken  Public  School  District  uses  a  common  method  called  leveling  to  separate  students  
based  on  ability.    A  disproportionate  amount  of  low  income  students  of  color  attend  the  racially  
segregated  Connors  Elementary  School  and  are  tracked  into  levels  3,  4,  and  5  classes  by  3rd  
grade.  Additionally,  Wallace  Elementary  uses  leveling  to  create  racially  segregated  classrooms.  
This  disqualifies  students  of  color  from  accessing  more  advanced  academic  instruction  and  
programs  found  on  levels  1  and  2.  This  tracking  system  really  begins  to  take  form  in  the  Middle  
School.  The  current  8th  grade  does  not  have  a  Black  student  in  Gifted  and  Talented  (Level  1)  and  
there  is  only  one  Black  student  in  Honors  (Level  2).    Levels  1  and  2  are  the  only  levels  that  give  
students  the  best  chance  of  becoming  college  ready  and  passing  AP  level  coursework  and  tests.  
Levels  1  and  2  contain  the  only  coursework  that  qualifies  for  the  admissions  process  for  the  
County  Magnet  Schools  because  the  academic  program  includes  Algebra  I.    Levels  3,  4,  and  5  
never  mix  in  the  Middle  School  and  in  the  High  School  the  levels  only  come  together  in  elective  
courses.  Students  in  levels  3-­‐5  never  have  the  opportunity  to  take  any  core  classes  with  
students  in  Levels  1  and  2  after  6th  grade.  The  primary  purpose  for  creating  Gifted  and  Talented  
and  an  Honors  track  was  to  attract  and  retain  the  more  gentrified  wealthier  student  population.  
There  is  limited  space  in  Honors  and/or  Gifted  and  Talented  classes  and  low  income  students  of  
color  who  meet  the  academic  requirements  have  been  tracked  down  into  level  3  classes  to  
make  room  for  their  white  peers.  
Example:  Last  year  three  7th  grade  Black  and  Latino  girls  from  the  Hoboken  Housing  Authority  
were  placed  into  the  Honors  program.    Several  white  parents  complained  about  their  child  not  
having  a  spot  in  the  Honor’s  program  because  it  would  disqualify  their  child  from  applying  to  
the  County  Magnet  School  System  and  other  private  schools.    The  three  7th  grade  girls  were  
tracked  out  of  the  Honor’s  Program  in  to  Level  3  to  make  room  for  these  children.    Also  there  
are  at  least  two  Afro-­‐Latino  students  that  were  admitted  to  the  Gifted  and  Talented  Program  
but  have  been  tracked  to  Level  3  classes  instead  of  the  Honors  Program.      
 
Discipline-­‐  
Low  Income  students  are  harshly  disciplined  for  minor  infractions.    These  minor  infractions  are  
well  documented  and  recorded  throughout  the  course  of  the  child’s  time  in  the  district.    Low  
income  students  of  color  are  constantly  receiving  punishments  based  on  something  they  did  in  
elementary  school.  This  leads  to  repeated  removal  from  instruction  time  and  school.  The  
district  uses  “Homeschooling”  as  a  method  to  remove  students  from  school  without  expelling  
them.    The  district  also  uses  the  Hoboken  Police  Department  to  manage  discipline  issues  
concerning  students  of  color.    
Examples:  Two  7th  grade  girls  have  a  physical  confrontation.    One  of  the  girls  has  a  crush  on  the  
other  girl.    Both  girls  are  openly  gay  and  reside  in  subsidized  housing.    The  one  girl  
misunderstands  the  flirting  gestures  of  the  other  girl  and  believes  she  is  being  mocked.    The  
girls  argue  and  then  begin  wrestling.    The  altercation  lasted  for  a  very  short  period  of  time  but  
instead  of  the  administrators  and  disciplinarians  sitting  down  with  both  girls,  they  call  the  
police.    The  police  interview  both  girls  without  a  parent  or  guardian  or  a  school  administrator  
present.    They  were  threatened  with  assault  charges  and  time  in  juvenile  detention.      
 
Two  5th  graders,  a  boy  and  a  girl,  have  a  confrontation  during  recess.    The  boy  was  trying  to  get  
the  girls  attention  and  he  inadvertently  ran  into  the  girl.    He  knocked  her  over  onto  another  boy  
who  was  injured  in  the  collision.    In  attempt  to  show  the  boy  how  upset  she  was  by  the  
incident,  she  shook  her  Snapple  juice  onto  the  boy  who  ran  her  over.    The  boy  was  upset  and  
embarrassed  and  stormed  out  of  the  gym.    The  school  decided  to  suspend  both  children  over  
the  incident.    The  girl  did  not  have  a  record  of  behavior  but  the  school  felt  that  embarrassing  
the  boy  was  an  offense  worthy  of  suspension.    The  boy  was  suspended  for  three  days  because  
he  had  a  record  of  behavioral  issues.    
 
That  same  5th  grade  boy  was  later  in  an  incident  with  a  substitute  teacher.    The  substitute  was  
having  trouble  gaining  control  of  the  class.    The  teacher  kept  asking  the  boy  to  sit  down  and  
stop  talking.    The  boy  would  do  it  for  a  little  and  then  begin  standing  up  to  talk  to  his  
classmates.    The  substitute  then  walked  over  to  the  boy,  grabbed  him,  and  then  tried  to  force  
him  to  sit  down  in  his  chair.    The  boy  grew  very  upset  and  yelled  at  the  teacher  for  putting  his  
hands  on  him.    The  boy  storms  out  of  the  classroom.    The  school  not  only  suspends  the  boy  but  
they  place  him  on  homeschool  for  3  months.    The  claimed  he  created  an  “unsafe’  learning  
environment.    During  that  time  on  home  school,  the  boy  received  one  lesson  per  week  for  1  
hour  for  three  months.      
 
Homeschool-­‐  
The  Hoboken  Public  School  District  use  homeschooling  to  remove  students  they  have  written  
off  from  the  school  district.    These  kids  are  often  low  income  students  of  color  who  have  been  
classified  since  3rd  grade  with  established  records  of  discipline.    Many  of  these  students  are  
underperforming  academically  because  they  were  racially  tracked  into  lower  level  classes,  
missed  a  lot  of  instruction  over  the  years,  and  building  leaders  do  not  want  to  figure  out  ways  
to  re-­‐engage  students  like  this.  This  practices  allows  the  district  to  kick  students  out  without  
counting  them  in  the  expulsion,  standardize  test  scores,  or  dropout  rates.  The  State  of  New  
Jersey  does  not  regulate  this  program  thus  making  it  easy  for  school  districts  to  use  it  without  
penalty.    
 
Inequitable  Funding-­‐  
The  Hoboken  Public  School  District  receives  additional  funding  from  the  State  of  New  Jersey  for  
its  Free  and  Reduced  Lunch  population  and  for  students  who  have  been  classified.  The  Federal  
Government  also  provides  additional  funding  called  Title  I  funding,  for  districts  with  high  
population  of  students  receiving  Free  or  Reduced  Lunch.  Despite  this  fact,  the  Hoboken  Public  
School  District  has  chosen  to  invest  these  resources  in  providing  opportunities  that  many  low  
income  students  of  color  have  either  been  tracked  or  classified  out  of.      This  is  part  of  why  our  
student  progress  and  growth  rates  are  underperforming.    In  the  past  6  months,  the  district  has  
added  more  AP  courses,  college  enrichment  programs,  STEAM  programs,  etc.  that  require  pre-­‐
requisite  courses  of  Levels  1  and  2,  teacher  recommendations,  and  entrance  exams.