A conservative group opposed to critical race theory in K-12 education filed two federal complaints against schools in Colorado and Illinois Friday for holding what the group says are racially segregated events.
The complaints by Parents Defending Education were filed in the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights against Centennial Elementary School in Colorado Springs and Downers Grove South High School in Downers Grove, Illinois.
The complaint against Centennial Elementary School included a photograph of the school’s front yard message board advertising “Families of Color Playground Night” on Dec. 8. The school’s calendar shows similar events were held Oct. 13 and Nov. 10.
Downers Grove South High School, meanwhile, has a “Students of Color Field Trip” scheduled for Jan. 19. The trip will take students “considering education as a career as a person of color” to a middle school, where they will observe other teachers and have a question and answer period, according to posters at the school advertising the event. A photograph of the poster is included in the complaint.
Centennial Elementary School’s contact person for the “Families of Color Playground Night” is listed as the school’s dean of culture, Nicole Tembrock. Ms. Tembrock did not respond to questions Friday about how long the event might have been held and whether it excluded White families.
When news of the events broke this week, the school issued a statement saying it was trying to organize “inclusive” events. The playground night did not exclude anyone, the school said.
“All families are welcome to attend all of our events, and families from a variety of backgrounds have done so,” the statement said.
Downers Grove South HS administrators said the field trip was an “opportunity for all students, including students of color.”
“The opportunity is open to anyone; in addition the coordinator has been trying to encourage more students of color to participate and explore education as a possible career,” said Jill Browning, the school’s director of communications.
Ms. Browning said the flier photographed in the complaint “was created by a new staff member and the flier was immediately removed when we recognized that it could be misinterpreted that the field trip was not open to all students.”
New fliers are being prepared that “more clearly communicates that students of all backgrounds are invited to consider the opportunity,” she told The Washington Times.
Schools across the country are increasingly turning to segregated events as part of their diversity, equity and inclusion programs. In Massachusetts, for example, complaints have been filed about separate “safe spaces” and “workshops” held in some schools there in response to George Floyd’s killing in May 2020 while under arrest by Minneapolis police officers.
A history of racism toward African-American students in school led to the outlawing of segregated events, a process that began with the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education and was codified in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
A nonprofit, Parents Defending Education filed as “an interested third-party organization that opposes racial discrimination and political indoctrination in America’s schools.”
Group President Nicole Neily said the trend toward resegregation in schools is troubling.
“The Centennial Elementary School is the latest in a string of schools across the country treating and separating students on the basis of race,” Ms. Neily said. “This practice is both immoral and unconstitutional.”
Centennial, with most of its students Hispanic, ranked in the bottom half of Colorado schools for grade proficiency in math and reading in the 2018-2019 school year. The school’s 31% proficiency in math and reading/language arts trails the Colorado state average in both, which are 35% and 41%, respectively.
Downers Grove South HS is ranked 104th among Chicago-area high schools, and the roughly 2,700 students there test at 48% proficiency in math and 42% in reading.
Parents Defending Education also has filed a federal lawsuit against schools in Wellesley, Mass., for racially segregating students there into “affinity spaces.” The lawsuit was filed after Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, filed an investigative report showing the Wellesley district had created “five distinct” segregated spaces between September 2020 and May 2021 as part of its diversity, equity and inclusion plan.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said segregated events are rooted in the ideology of critical race theory.
Developed in graduate and law schools in the 1970s, critical race theory is an analytical tool based on Marxist critical studies. It posits that racism is a foundational element of American society and government and is important in understanding and evaluating U.S. laws, policies and programs.
“Segregation is bad, and it is all part of critical race theory,” Mr. Fitton told The Times. “This is a core rule of law, but the lawlessness continues. The left is OK with this type of discrimination and segregation because otherwise you’d have the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights coming down on them like a ton of bricks.”