The coalition of nonprofits accusing New Jersey of having some of the most segregated public schools in the country rallied in Trenton on Thursday, demanding the state start integrating its districts and not wait for a judge to rule in a pending case.

“How long will New Jersey deny justice to Black and Latino children, how long?” the Rev. Charles Boyer, founder of Salvation and Social Justice, said before a crowd of about two dozen people. “How long will our children have to suffer from subpar education, and how long will the educators in our schools have to work with scraps and leftovers to do the best they can in the most challenging situations?”

Led by the Latino Action Network, a group of nonprofits sued Gov. Phil Murphy's administration in 2018, alleging New Jersey allowed the de facto segregation of its education system – in violation of the state’s constitution – by requiring students to attend schools in the neighborhoods they could afford to live in.

Lila Sanches Golden, 6, with her father Jonathan Golden at the school integration rally outside the state attorney general’s office in Trenton on March 31st, 2022.

The suit referenced a study from UCLA, which found that almost half of New Jersey’s Black and Latino students attended public schools that were 90% non-white in 2016. The study labeled New Jersey as the sixth most-segregated state for Black students and the seventh most-segregated for Latino students.

The state attorney general’s office defended the case in court, arguing earlier this month that the plaintiffs had not defined what constituted a segregated school, adding that the education system would have to be “rebuilt brick by brick” if the court mandates action.

How long will New Jersey deny justice to Black and Latino children, how long?
The Rev. Charles Boyer

But on Thursday, advocates said too many generations of students had been harmed by segregated schools.

Lawrence Hamm, chair of the People’s Organization for Progress, said segregated schools “weren't equal in 1954 and they're not equal in 2022.”

“When we fail in giving students the resources to talk and interact with other people who hold different stories, who have different interests, different perspectives, if we shut the door, we are only encouraging a non-inclusive society.” Sanchez said.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy is now weighing whether to find the state liable for the racial composition of its schools. It’s unclear when he will issue his decision.

New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the country and has more than 600 school districts that educate 1.5 million students.