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State suggests mediation, not litigation, to resolve school segregation suit

State suggests mediation, not litigation, to resolve school segregation suit

Segregation is a long-standing, near-intractable problem in NJ schools. Can state’s approach help find a solution?

The Murphy administration and plaintiffs in a major school segregation lawsuit have agreed to try mediation to come up with a settlement, with a tentative deadline set for January.

Lawyers for the administration and the plaintiffs in the Latino Action Network v. New Jersey were granted a request to enter into mediated talks to come up with an agreement to address the state’s long-standing segregation in its schools.

The talks would begin Tuesday, Nov. 21, with a confidential meeting of attorneys for the plaintiffs, defendants and other intervening parties. It’s worth noting that the chosen mediator will be retired state Supreme Court Justice Barry Albin, one of the court’s more liberal members in the past half-century.

Lawyers on both sides said they hope mediation will allow for the quickest path to resolving what are extremely complex issues concerning segregation in New Jersey, often varying by district and community. The case has already lasted five years, without even agreement on which parties are responsible, let alone any remedies.

Saving time and money

“If successful, this mediation process holds the promise of saving the people of New Jersey and the courts of this State from years of complex, highly charged litigation,” the motion reads.

State Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy of Mercer County ruled in October that the state has failed to ensure children’s constitutional rights to an education free of racial segregation. But the judge cited only 23 of nearly 600 districts and did not provide a clear guidance about what happens next.

Lawrence Lustberg, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the invitation came from the state. He agreed the mediation would allow the state and its schools to address the disparities as quickly as possible. The plaintiffs are a coalition led by the Latino Action Network and the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP.

Read the complete article here.

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