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City-Suburban Integration Plan Upheld in N.J.

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In a move that could affect desegregation efforts statewide, the New Jersey Board of Education has denied a mostly white suburban school district's request to pull its students out of a mostly minority high school in a nearby urban area.

The board's decision this month upholds a previous ruling by an administrative law judge, who rejected the Englewood Cliffs school board's request to end a longtime "sending and receiving" agreement with the neighboring Englewood city district.

Since 1965, students in the suburban district, which only serves grades K-8, have attended Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood.

The Englewood Cliffs board, however, has been trying to break that agreement, citing concerns about "deficiencies in the quality of education" at the city high school, according to court documents.

But Englewood officials cite racism as the motive, noting the suburban district's concerns about growth in minority student enrollment there.

The Englewood Cliffs board filed suit in 1985 in an attempt to move the students from Englewood to another nearby suburban district, Tenafly.

However, the state board found that withdrawing Englewood Cliffs students would have "an adverse racial impact" on Dwight Morrow High School, and would impede efforts to desegregate New Jersey schools.

In an effort to prevent Englewood Cliffs students from transferring to private schools, the board ordered officials there and in Englewood to submit a cooperative plan to the state commissioner designed to encourage attendance at Dwight Morrow.

The board did, however, overturn an opinion issued by Commissioner of Education Saul Cooperman, who questioned the state board's authority to create a "regional district" serving the three districts in question.

Englewood school officials, as well as those in other urban areas facing declining enrollments, have pushed for the so-called "regionalization" option to enable them to share resources with neighboring suburban districts.

The state board reaffirmed its authority to create regional districts if necessary to uphold desegregation policies. But it found that regionalization was not necessary in this case.

The Englewood Cliffs board is expected to meet April 19 to consider an appeal to state courts.--lj

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