Leaving Hate Behind

On March 6, 2019 I drove Ross Wishnick to Rutgers School of Social Work in Camden where he spoke on a panel discussion entitled “Leaving Hate Behind” together with Tyree Ordein, DrPH, Safe Schools Coordinator of Garden State Equality and Ronald W. Pierce, Democracy and Justice Fellow of New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

-Lawrence R. Greenberg, PMP

Cedar Grove, NJ adopts anti-BDS resolution

Cedar Grove becomes 22nd New Jersey Municipality to Pass SWC Forwarded anti-BDS Resolution
The Simon Wiesenthal Center would like to offer our congratulations and appreciation to the township of Cedar Grove, NJ for voting last week to adopt the SWC forwarded anti-BDS resolution and becoming the twenty-second (22) local New Jersey municipality to do so.
A special thank you to each member of the governing body for using your important platform to help make sure that anti-Semitism, discrimination, and intolerance have no place in our society.
  • Mayor, Joseph Cicala
  • Deputy Mayor, Robbie Vargo
  • Councilmember, Harry Kumburis
  • Councilmember, Kerry Peterson
  • Councilmember, Peter Tanella
Wiesenthal, 11 Broadway, Suite 766, New York, NY 10004

New Jersey’s Public Schools Still Among Most Segregated in Nation

Almost 10 percent of all students attend “apartheid schools,” where 99 percent or more of the student body is nonwhite


The unflattering ranking has grown all too familiar: New Jersey is home to some of the most segregated public schools in the country.

The latest statistics come courtesy of report released last week by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, an organization that has tracked school segregation nationwide for decades and consistently found New Jersey in the bottom 10.

The new numbers offer some striking facts:

For instance, the percentage of New Jersey schools that are 90 percent nonwhite has doubled since 1990 to one-in-five. Those that are 99 percent or more nonwhite has also doubled to 8 percent of all schools.

A quarter of black students now attend such schools, labeled in the report as “apartheid schools.”

“While New Jersey has taken historic steps to equalize funding for high-poverty schools, segregation has gone largely unchecked,” said Gary Orfield, the director of the Civil Rights project.

This comes as New Jersey itself has only grown more diverse. For the first time in the project’s tracking, white students made up a minority of overall enrollment, at 46 percent of all students in 2015-2016. At the same time, the proportion of Hispanic (26 percent) and Asian (10 percent) students both continued to grow.

Coupled with a sizable but shrinking African-American enrollment (16 percent), the project defined New Jersey as a “four-race” state when it came to student makeup.

New Jersey has plenty of company, according to the chief author of the report, with few states showing much progress.

“In some cases, it’s at least not getting worse,” said Orfield, who has been tracking the numbers for more than 20 years.

Still, he said the issue is starting to generate new attention in many states, if not new policy. “There is developing intensive conversation around this,” he said. “We are getting more requests and more interest than we have in a long time.”

New Jersey is one such a state, albeit with little as yet coming out of the politicians or policymakers in terms of remedies.

The issue was hardly on the radar for Gov. Chris Christie in his past eight years of office, and Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has yet to say much about what he would do concerning segregation of the state’s schools.

When asked by NJ Spotlight at the first of the gubernatorial debates this fall about his position on school consolidation and regionalization as one remedy, Murphy did decry the wide disparities.

“The reality is that we are the most or among the most segregated states in the nation,” he said.

But Murphy was less clear on what steps would come next, placing a common blame on segregated housing patterns and also claiming additional school funding would help.

“With all due respect, getting those two policy areas in the right place would be a big way in getting at the segregated state we’re in,” Murphy said.

Beyond that, the governor-elect only called for more attention to shared services between districts and maybe the appointment of a “czar” to shepherd such efforts statewide.

Legislators have yet to pay much attention, either, and the question comes next to whether New Jersey’s courts will get involved. The state’s constitution specifically prohibits segregation in the public education system, opening a window for a challenge that has yet to be raised.

Orfield said that while he presses for voluntary methods, the courts may provide a lasting remedy. He pointed to a state court order in Connecticut that has led to widespread desegregation efforts.

“The state courts can do a lot, just look at Connecticut,” Orfield said. “The state courts are the one place where people may start to pay attention.”

Does New Jersey’s anti-bullying law address racism in schools?


A Camden County lacrosse team’s season was canceled this month after students from Haddonfield uttered a racial slur at a member of the Sterling High School track team in Somerdale.

In a similar incident last weekend, members of Linwood’s Mainland Regional High School boys crew team were accused of taunting a black rower on Absegami High School’s crew team during a meet at Lake Lenape in Mays Landing. The punishment for those students has not been disclosed by the Mainland superintendent, but The Press has been told the boys involved have been removed from the team.

State data show such incidents are on the decline in schools, which many attribute to New Jersey’s anti-bullying law. The 2010 law established procedures and reporting requirements to help districts deal with harassment, intimidation and bullying, known collectively to school officials as HIB.

But under the law, how punishments for those incidents are doled out is entirely up to the school district.

Greater Egg Harbor Regional Superintendent John Keenan, who oversees three high schools, including Absegami, said there is no “one-size-fits-all” discipline for a violation because each situation is unique.

State data show most HIB violations result in detentions as well as individual counseling and parent and student conferences.

Christopher Kobik, superintendent of the Lower Cape May Regional School District, said racial bias may extend beyond the scope of the HIB law.

“HIB can address it when it fits; however, bias by definition has a wider scope that extends beyond individuals to practices and organizations,” Kobik said, noting his district references affirmative action policies for guidance, as well.

Although there haven’t been studies on its effectiveness, Rutgers University psychology professor Paul Boxer said the HIB law is successful in placing accountability on schools.

“There’s no leeway as far as schools not being able to follow every step. … I think it’s also a good thing in terms of really making it clear to students the potential severity of what they’ve done,” said Boxer, director of the Center on Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, who was also involved in making recommendations to the state regarding the law.

Data show most HIB incidents in New Jersey are related to “other distinguishing characteristics” of a person, but the second most prevalent target is a person’s race.

Kaleem Shabazz, president of the Atlantic City NAACP, said schools are doing a good job in reacting to racism, but there needs to be more “proactive” work, especially during a time when people may feel more emboldened to make such comments.

“We have to do more to prevent some of these incidents and let people know they should not interact with people like that,” Shabazz said. “It’s hard to look at ourselves and say we have ingrained racist feelings … but unfortunately, it’s here.”

He said the local NACCP is working with the Anti-Defamation League and offered to provide resources to schools in Atlantic County to combat racism and bullying.

Experts say there is no easy explanation for why students make racist comments. In the case at Lake Lenape, Boxer said the fact that a competition was going on could have been a contributing factor. Boxer said kids may also feel more empowered when they are in a group setting.

“They get messages from their parents, they get messages from the media about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate,” Boxer said. “It’s not like racism in American society is something that just came out of nowhere.”

Keenan said training is a big part of a school’s anti-bullying procedures, and that involves not only staff but students. Many schools also have anonymous reporting apps such as STOPit, which is used by the Greater Egg schools.

Regardless of the punishment, Absegami’s Myasia Joga wants an in-person apology from the students at Mainland Regional High School who she says taunted her.

“I need to read that they apologized, but it still isn’t enough,” the 16-year-old told The Press of Atlantic City earlier this week.

Mainland has apologized in writing. Superintendent Mark Marrone declined to comment on the situation further.




ASBURY PARK, NJ – Garden State Equality (GSE) will be bringing on their newest team member, Dr. Tyree Oredein, as the Safe Schools Coordinator for North Jersey. The program is being funded by a grant awarded to GSE by PSE&G.

With demand for GSE’s Teach and Affirm Program increasing, the hiring of their second Safe Schools Coordinator will enable the organization to visit even more schools and develop more outreach materials and curricular resources in the upcoming school year.

“We are confident that having two Safe Schools Coordinators will also enhance our ability to host more special activities, such as our youth caucus program, new Library Series, our Educators for Equality program, and education conferences that extend our reach,” said Denise Rodriguez, Garden State Equality Director of Development. “We know that youth are influenced by their peers, and creating additional projects and activities that are youth-directed will bolster our message of inclusion and effectuate even greater positive changes in the communities we serve across New Jersey.”

In October of 2017, GSE hired a Safe Schools Coordinator, Ashley Chiappano, who enhanced their anti-bullying program, Teach and Affirm, and expanded their reach to more schools and youth-based organizations across New Jersey. Since bringing on Chiappano less than a year ago, their Safe Schools Program has provided over 70 workshops, trainings, and information sessions that have reached hundreds of youth, parents, community leaders, and educators across the State.

Despite a substantial amount of progress, GSE still looks to expand their work further in NJ schools. Moving forward, the organization anticipates making additional developments in the area of their anti-bullying programming, along with continued outreach to schools. Having a second Safe Schools Coordinator designated to North Jersey provides GSE a broader reach to school districts and other youth-based organizations.

Dr. Oredein has an extensive background in creating and ensuring safe spaces for sexual minority youth in academic, professional, social service, and community settings. Since 2005, she has delivered hundreds of Professional Development training workshops to more than 5,000 administrators, educators, social service & medical providers, police officers, correction officers, graduate and undergraduate students, high school students, peer educators, and community members.

Additionally, Dr. Oredein has facilitated numerous workshops on HIV/AIDS, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), STIs, sexuality, healthy relationships, media and health literacy, and other pertinent topics affecting youth. She has visited K through 12 settings to deliver presentations on anti-bullying and acceptance in an effort to create safer spaces in schools and has been a fixture at various LGBTQIA+ youth forums and summits across New Jersey. She also sits on the Board of Directors for Say Ah!, a non-profit agency dedicated to increasing health literacy, and she is an adjunct professor at Montclair State University in the Department of Public Health.

Dr. Oredein, who received her Doctorate of Public Health (Dr.P.H.) from Rutgers University, her Masters of Public Health (M.P.H) from Hunter College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Wellesley College, began her work as the GSE Safe Schools Coordinator for North Jersey on Wednesday, August 15, 2018.