Newark Board of Education Creates Pathway to Civic Engagement

Civics in the Classroom, Voter Registration and Education and Student Voting on the Newark Education Referendum


Nearly 500 students registered to vote, thousands of students participated in Civics in the Classroom and more than 3,000 students took part in a mock vote on the Newark referendum on education.

Superintendent of Newark Schools Roger León said one of the priorities of Newark Public Schools being returned to local control would be to educate students in civic engagement; through voter registration and education, classroom civics and student voting. Over the last three weeks, Superintendent León accomplished all three of the goals set forth for Newark Public School students to participate in civic engagement.

“The success of our students and our district will be measured in part by how we engage our students in real life experiences,” said Superintendent León. “One of the priorities of my administration is to give students a voice in their future – civic engagement is an integral part of any life experience – it not only gives students a voice, it also educates them about how they as individuals, can make a difference.”

This is the first time the Newark Board of Education has engaged students on this level of civic engagement. A number of Newark leaders participated in Civics in the Classroom, including Ryan Haygood, Executive Director of the NJ Institute for Social Justice. Led by Deputy Superintendent Gerald Fitzhugh, II, students throughout the district participated in a curriculum focused on civics. According to Principal Jasonn Dennard of American History High School (AHHS), the topic chosen for discussion at AHHS was of the role of protests and civic responsibility to bring about change. According to Deputy Superintendent Fitzhugh, the Newark BOE students embarked on a “Civics Day Exploration” within their Social Studies classes. He said, “The purpose of this work was to engage students in what it means to be an engaged citizen in their local community, how to work with others on community issues, and what components help create a good solution.” Many of the schools chronicled their day through pictures and writing. The school district worked alongside The Citizens Campaign to present civics in the classroom.

Voter registration was held at every Newark High School for students not already registered to vote, and for those turning 18 before Election Day. Students were registered with the help of the Rutgers Newark Campus of The New Jersey Public Interest Research Group. Finally, students in Grades 8-12 were offered an opportunity to participate in a mock election for Tuesday’s vote in Newark on the referendum of what kind of school board Newark will have in the future. In just two days, more than 3,000 students have registered their vote.

Superintendent León said, “I am proud of the students who registered to vote, who voted in the mock election and those who participated in Civics in the Classroom Day. It is our hope they will continue to participate in civic engagement throughout their lifetime.”


A total of 3,480 students voted. 

Public Question 1: Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act

  • Yes – 2,953 (84.9%)
  • No – 527 (15.1%)

Newark BOE: Public Questions

  • Type 1 – 741 (21.3%)
  • Type 2 – 2,739 (78.7%)

Students who voted:

  • 8th Grade: 1,062
  • 9th Grade: 658
  • 10th Grade: 677
  • 11th Grade: 610
  • 12th Grade: 473