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NJ and opponents will try mediation before suit alleging school segregation goes to trial

NJ and opponents will try mediation before suit alleging school segregation goes to trial

A lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s decades-old model of assigning students to public schools based on their town of residence, or ZIP code, is moving into mediation, with both sides coming to the table to see if they can resolve their differences.

After a Superior Court judge ruled in October that the state must address unofficial segregation in its school districts, the state Attorney General’s Office, which is fighting the case on behalf of the state Department of Education, invited plaintiffs to work out a solution and avoid going to trial.

The 2018 lawsuit, brought by various groups including the Latino Action Network and the NAACP, argued that public schools are segregated by race and the state has failed to remedy this situation.

Lawyers on both sides will meet Tuesday for the first in a series of discussions as part of a confidential mediation process. The move was welcomed by all three parties involved with the lawsuit: the state, the plaintiffs and the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association, which joined the case as a co-defendant with the state.

Barry Albin, a retired state Supreme Court associate justice, will serve as mediator. The courts have given the groups until Jan. 16 to come to an agreement.

“We are pleased to accept the state’s invitation to undertake a confidential mediation process,” said Lawrence Lustberg, attorney for the plaintiffs, “and are hopeful that it will result in an effective solution to New Jersey’s longstanding problem of school segregation more expeditiously than would be the case if it is necessary to continue the ongoing litigation.”

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