A Massachusetts high school appears to restrict auditions for a school play to students who identify as “people of color,” according to a complaint filed by a concerned parent organization.
Newton North High School, in Massachusetts, operates a theater program called “Theatre Ink,” which allows students an opportunity to audition in multiple plays and productions throughout the year. “Theatre Ink” operates a standalone website linked to the official Black Lives Matter organization website.
The school’s theater website encourages students to audition for “Lost and Found: Our Stories as People of Color.” The play’s audition packet insinuates that the auditions are restricted to students who identify as “people of color.” The play is slated to operate from Jan. 19-21, 2023.
“Lost and Found is a no-cut, cabaret-style show for students of color at North,” the audition packet reads. “Lost and Found will be a reserved safe space for this exploration and for people of color to be vulnerable and support one another. One of the aspects that make Lost and Found special is that it centers on community building by having full-cast rehearsals once a week where we have organized discussions about race and identity in our lives.”
A separate audition form for “Lost and Found” asked for students’ pronouns, a headshot, and an answer to the prompt, “Describe a time when you felt misunderstood/disrespected in terms of your racial identity.”
Parents Defending Education, a concerned parent organization, filed a complaint with the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The complaint alleges that the action is “in violation of both Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 … and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” according to documents reviewed by the Daily Caller.
Parents Defending Education noted that the performance description does not state that participation is open to all, an important descriptor to include to avoid Civil Rights violations.
The Communications Director for Newton Public Schools told the Daily Caller that the play is “center in the stories of the lives of our students of color,” though “no one is turned away or excluded from participating or having a role” in the production.”
“While centered in the stories of the lives of our students of color, no one is turned away or excluded from participating or having a role in the “Lost and Found” production of Theatre Ink, Newton North’s teaching and working theater program,” the spokeswoman said. “The Newton Public Schools do not exclude students based upon color, race, ethnicity, or religious background.
This article was updated to include comment from Newton Public Schools.