Elementary School Hit With Civil Rights Complaint After Hosting ‘Race-Based’ Lunch Clubs

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Reagan Reese Contributor
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Parents Defending Education, a parental rights group, filed a complaint Tuesday to the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) against a Washington school district that hosted race-segregated affinity groups.

The complaint names Olympia School District for hosting affinity groups for elementary students who are “black, indigenous and people of color” (BIPOC), excluding white students from joining, according to the complaint. Beginning in 4th grade, students of color could attend a “BIPOC-only” group during their lunch period to discuss their experiences as a minority, according to an email from Principal Shannon Ritter. (RELATED: The Education Department Is Fielding A Record Number Of Racism, Sexism Complaints)

“Olympia School District administrators have taken it upon themselves to expand race-based affinity group programming for students as young as 4th grade,” Caroline Moore, vice president of Parents Defending Education, said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the district prides itself on creating a safe space for BIPOC students to commiserate and build community, these so called affinity groups purposefully exclude students who do not identify as BIPOC. These groups are discriminatory in nature and are eerily reminiscent of heinous 1950s segregation laws that only hindered students.”

Principal Shannon Ritter told a parent within the district that many of the secondary and elementary schools have similar groups, the complaint stated. Ritter said the groups for the BIPOC students create a “safe space” allowing them to “hang out, check in and possibly talk about their experiences as a student in the minority as they build a community.”

“Groups like this are important for elevating voices and are instrumental in helping our district design a responsive educational experience that meets the needs of all students,” the school district told the Daily Caller. “At the same time, we recognize that they cannot be exclusionary. Moving forward, we will ensure that school leadership and staff are specific about the purpose of these groups, while simultaneously removing any exclusions to participation.”

The OCR does not acknowledge complaints until they have been accepted for investigation, a Department of Education spokesperson told the DCNF.

Ritter and Olympia School District did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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