Parent-Led Organization Sues School For Segregating ‘Affinity Groups’ By Race And Punishing ‘Unconscious Bias’

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Kendall Tietz Education Reporter
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A national, parent-led organization filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging policies at Wellesley Public Schools, which includes segregated “affinity groups” and a “bias reporting” program.

Parents Defending Education (PDE) filed the complaint against Wellesley Public Schools (WPS) in a Massachusetts federal court “alleging that the district has systemically and repeatedly violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Massachusetts Students’ Freedom of Expression Law through the use of segregated ‘affinity groups’ and an onerous speech code featuring a ‘bias reporting’ program,” according to the press release.

PDE is a national grassroots organization that is working to expose “harmful agendas” and “indoctrination in the classroom” through “network and coalition building, investigative reporting, litigation, and engagement on local, state, and national policies,” according to its website.

In 2020, WPS implemented a five-year “Strategic Equity Plan” which included “racially segregated affinity groups” that it said was necessary to achieve “racial equity.” Meeting with the affinity groups allows “people within an identity group to openly share their experiences without risk of feeling like they will offend someone from another group, and without another group’s voices,” according to WPS.

“It is appalling that an American public school has consciously implemented a policy to segregate students based on race and ethnicity,” said Nicole Neily, president and founder of Parents Defending Education. “Excluding children from activities based on immutable characteristics is not only immoral, but unconstitutional – and must be ended immediately – both in Wellesley and everywhere else this practice exists.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Just Unconscionable’: Parents Protest Outside The Justice Department Against ‘Domestic Terrorist’ Label)

The district has had numerous racially segregated student events, but would not hold to an “affinity group” for Jewish students, according to the press release.

WPS’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion expressed frustration that schools didn’t have a list of students organized by race so that she could invite only the Asian and Asian American students to an event, according to emails obtained by a public records request.

PDE claims that WPS’s speech code “has both the purpose and effect of chilling student speech” by punishing students’ “biased” speech, which is defined as “offensive,” has an “impact,” “treats another person differently” or “demonstrates conscious or unconscious bias.”

The district also refused to fly Israeli or Thin Blue Line flags to show viewpoint diversity when parents raised concern over Black Lives Matter flags in various schools because the organization has supported Hamas and “defunding the police,” the press release said.

“Wellesley Public Schools maintains multiple policies that demonstrate the district’s deep contempt for the constitutional rights of its students,” said Neily. “Racial and viewpoint discrimination have no place in an American public school, and we are proud to fight on behalf of our members to put a stop to these unconstitutional policies.”

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