Walter Fields v. Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad C34-18
"Based on its previously issued decisions, and because the Commission finds that Respondent [Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad] attempted to misuse her position as a Board member and to leverage her relationship with the Village President during a routine traffic stop for her own personal gain, findings which are compounded by Respondent’s wholly unacceptable conduct, the Commission recommends a penalty of suspension for six (6) months. Absent the mitigating factors present in this case (as set forth above), the Commission would have recommended a more severe penalty."
As part of our efforts at school reform, the Black Parents Workshop visits schools in and out of state that have demonstrated success in promoting equity, implementing STEM curricula, and addressing racial disparities in student discipline. We invite school district administrators and Board of Education members to accompany us on these trips to encourage them to adopt strategies that work.
If you know a school we should visit, please make a referral.
In 2017 the Black Parents Workshop took a strong stand against police brutality in Maplewood, New Jersey due to a police assault upon Black youth after the town’s Independence Day fireworks event. We demanded the release of video of the incident and only once the video was released did the Township of Maplewood demand the resignations of the chief of police and the captain. The Star-Ledger newspaper has launched an investigation into the use of force by police departments in New Jersey. Maplewood was ranked first in the use of force and South Orange police were recorded as using force at a rate higher than 385 other police departments (out of 467) in the state. The data reveals the degree to which the Maplewood AND South Orange police use force against Black people. It is why we must keep police out of our schools and demand both towns hold local police officers accountable.
Protest demanding the release of audio transmissions and videotape related to the July 5, 2016 incident in which the Maplewood Police Department herded Black children out of town after the Independence Day fireworks.
The Black Parents Workshop is committed to serving as an active and persistent advocate on behalf of Black children in our community and lending our voice to other communities seeking to improve the life chances of Black children and youth. We are a firm believer in the right to protest and voice our opposition to policies and practices that are harmful to the healthy development of Black children. As an organization committed to local action and change, the Black Parents Workshop will align itself with allied organizations who are working to protect our children. We will also utilize all available tools to bring about the systemic change necessary to drive institutional reforms that will result in the equitable treatment of Black children.
There is a simple way to hold the Board of Education accountable – VOTE! The act of casting your ballot in the local School Board election is the easiest and most efficient way to mandate the priorities of our local school system.
However, it is just the first step. Following an election, we must be active parents and be present at Board of Education meetings and in our schools to hold administrators and educators accountable. Voting has a high ROI (return on investment) because it allows us to determine the qualities and values of the individuals we want determining education policy in our community.
If you are registered, vote. If you are not registered, register and be prepared to cast your vote. If you are not sure of your registration status, call the County Board of Elections.
You are a taxpayer and the majority of your local tax dollars is allocated to support our public-school district. These are your tax dollars the Board of Education uses to run our local schools. When you don’t vote, you are essentially giving your money away with no input on how it is spent.
And, if your child is not in one of our public schools, your tax dollars are still being used to support our local public education system. It is to your advantage to have a say in how your taxes are spent. School Board elections are held in November, when other elected offices are up for consideration. Don’t sit out the election and then complain about the quality of education and services your child is receiving. Voting is your responsibility as an adult. It is also a commitment to your child and all children in our community. When you fail to vote in a School Board election, you have failed our children.
The Black Parents Workshop, Inc. provided a questionnaire to all of the candidates for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education in the November 6, 2018 election. Every candidate was given ample time to respond to the questionnaire. We are publishing the questions we posed and the candidates’ responses in their entirety. We did not score the answers because we believe doing so, allows a candidate to manufacture responses to try to game the scoring system. We also believe scoring the candidates is simply subterfuge to create the appearance of objectivity for the selection of pre-determined candidate favorites. Our aim, as it was with our forum last year, is to raise critical questions, have the candidates answer them and allow you, the voter, to determine if a candidate’s response is sufficient to compel your support. We encourage your questioning of the candidates by directly contacting them through their respective campaigns.
Every candidate with the exception of Shannon Cuttle answered our questionnaire. Candidate Cuttle suggested being advised by the New Jersey School Boards Association that responding to the questions would represent a 'conflict' if Shannon were elected given that the Black Parents Workshop has filed litigation against the South Orange-Maplewood School District. Candidate Cuttle responded:
“Thank you for inviting me to take part in the BPW questionnaire. For over 20 years, I have been deeply invested in creating welcoming, affirming, inclusive safe schools for all students. Students of color, marginalized, and underserved students disproportionately face harsher discipline rates and higher rates of bullying, and report higher rates of feeling unsafe at school. We need to work as a community with stakeholders to help close the achievement gap that negatively impacts students of color and other marginalized students and truly invest in equity, not just equality. Unfortunately, after seeking guidance from NJ State School Board Association legal counsel in regards to the questionnaire and the ongoing lawsuit with the district, I have determined that I ought not to complete the questionnaire. It is my understanding that completing the questionnaire may lead to my needing to recuse myself once elected to the BOE. The issues discussed in the questionnaire are vitally important to not only me but our school community, and I want to ensure that I will be able to have an active voice standing up for students and equity when I am elected to the BOE.”
We don’t buy that explanation, particularly since no question sought comment specifically on our litigation and an incumbent candidate answered all of the questions. Therefore, we oppose in principle Shannon Cuttle’s candidacy. If a candidate cannot answer questions that are part of a larger public debate, we believe the individual is not worthy of voter support.
Please find below our 2018 Candidates' Questionnaire and related press releases.
Maplewood Municipal Building
574 Valley Street
Districts: 1, 6
The Woodland (formerly Maplewood Woman’s Club)
60 Woodland Road
Districts: 2, 17
Gym, Door #11
27 Berkshire Road
Districts: 4, 10, 14, 16, 22
Prospect Presbyterian Church (Fellowship Hall)
646 Prospect Street
Districts: 5, 15, 19,20
Morrow Memorial Church
(Entrance Baker Street)
800 Ridgewood Road
Districts: 7, 8
Maplewood Community Center (DeHart Park)
120 Burnett Avenue
Districts: 9, 11, 12, 13, 21
Fr. Vincent Monella Center
133 Fairview Avenue
262 Grove Road
District: 2, 10
South Orange Middle School
70 N. Ridgewood Road
District: 3, 13
Our Lady of Sorrows Church
(Entrance on 4th Street)
217 Prospect Street
The Baird Community Center
5 Mead Street
Districts: 6, 8
South Mountain Annex
112 Glenview Road
First Presbyterian & Trinity Church
111 Irvington Avenue
District: 9, 11
Seton Hall University
400 South Orange Avenue
Essex County Board of Elections
Essex County Hall of Records
465 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Newark, NJ 07102
Office of the Secretary of State Elections Division
33 W. State Street, #4
Trenton, NJ 08608
Office of the State Attorney General
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex 25 Market Street
Click on a file to download.