The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation into a Massachusetts school district that allegedly limited auditions for a play on the basis of race, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Parents Defending Education (PDE), an organization focused on parental rights, filed a civil rights complaint in October 2022 to the OCR alleging that Newton North High School’s (NNHS) production of “Lost and Found: Our Stories as People of Color” discriminated against students based on the color of their skin. The OCR notified PDE in a letter that they would be opening an investigation into the school district on Feb. 25. (RELATED: Biden Admin Opens Investigation Into Texas School Over Removal Of LGBTQ Books)
The play which would serve as a place for students to talk about “race and identity” in their lives was to be “a reserved safe space for this exploration and for people of color to be vulnerable and support one another,” according to the complaint. When auditioning, students were asked to provide a headshot and list what race or ethnicity they identify as.
The play, performed in January, was a Theatre Ink production, the high school’s teaching and working theatre, the website stated. At Theatre Ink, student and staff directors aim to “cast fairly” with the “guiding objective of assembling the overall cast that will best serve the directorial vision for the show.”
“Lost and Found will share the stories of people of color and amplify their voices through the performing arts,” the student director of the production said in a video. “The process will also be an exploration of race, identity and their expression through theatre. All BIPOC [Black, indigenous and people of color] students at North are invited to audition.”
In response to the complaint, the school district issued a response in defense of the play saying they were proud of the theatre for assembling a “diverse group of performers” as well as challenging others to have “difficult conversations around societal issues,” according to PDE.
“While the theme of Lost and Found is about lifting up voices of color, the overall production is a multiracial endeavor that provides opportunities for allyship to white NNHS theater students who contribute as part of the production team,” the email from the school, obtained by PDE stated. “At a time when our country is so deeply divided, it is exactly experiences like Lost and Found that bridge differences by bringing students representing a variety of racial and cultural identities together with the broader Newton North community.”
Newton Public Schools, NNHS and the OCR did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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