A parents-rights group has filed a federal complaint accusing a Massachusetts school district of engaging in racial discrimination by banning White students from an event on hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Parents Defending Education asked the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to investigate the Wellesley Public Schools for an alleged Zoom session described as a “Healing Space for Asian and Asian American students (grades 6-12), faculty/staff, and others in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community who wish to process recent events.”
The invitation shown in a screenshot attached to the complaint went on to say: “* Note: This is a safe space for our Asian/Asian-American and Students of Color, *not* for students who identify only as White.”
“If you identify as White, and need help to process recent events, please know I’m here for you as well as your guidance counselors,” the notice said. “If you need to know why this is not for White students, please ask me!”
The post referenced the March 16 shootings at Atlanta-area spas that left eight dead, including six women of Asian descent.
The district defended the use of such race-based “affinity spaces” in what the complaint identified as a March 19 email from the superintendent; the director of diversity, equity and inclusion; and two principals.
“The goal was to provide a safe space in which students and staff could reflect, share, and be supported as members of our school district,” the message said. “At the same time, we can also understand the discomfort that some members of our community have shared when learning of a practice that they perceived to be discriminatory. It’s important to note that affinity spaces are not discriminatory.”
Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, accused the district of violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“As the Department of Education is no doubt aware, segregation on the basis of race raises concerns that Wellesley Public Schools has received federal funds in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Ms. Neily in the May 12 complaint.
The district has not commented publicly on the complaint, which was released Wednesday, but the website includes a March 18 post saying that the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion would host “its second affinity-based student listening session, this time focusing on Asian and Asian American students.”
The session was described “as a means of centering student voices on all issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion,” and included a link to RSVP.
Ms. Neily said the parents’ advocacy group made the complaint “as an interested third-party organization that opposes racial discrimination and political indoctrination in America’s schools.”