A Massachusetts high school is no longer limiting play auditions on the basis of race, a Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigation found.
In October, Parents Defending Education (PDE), an organization focused on parental rights, filed a civil rights complaint alleging that Newton North High School’s (NNHS) production of “Lost and Found: Our Stories as People of Color” barred students from the play based on the color of their skin. During an investigation into the production, the OCR found that the high school changed its audition forms to limit the consideration of race and no longer require students to report how they racially identify, according to an OCR letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Biden Admin To Investigate School District That Allegedly Created Race-Based Student Groups)
“This outcome is a win because students will no longer have to submit their race and a photo to verify their skin color in order to audition for a school play,” Erika Sanzi, PDE director of outreach, told the DCNF. “Chief Justice John Roberts got it right when he said that the best way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. Newton should try it.”
Previously, the school said that the production of Lost and Found was specifically for students of color to share their stories and “amplify their voices through the performing arts,” though the OCR found that the audition packet had been modified to describe the play as a “no-cut, cabaret-style show that centers on students of color.” Additionally, the audition packet no longer describes the play as a “reserved safe space” for students of color.
The audition process has been modified to no longer require students to provide a headshot or list what race or ethnicity they identify as, the letter stated. In the 2023 production of the play, the Lost and Found cast and production team included white students, the district told the OCR.
Because the production no longer explicitly bars against racial groups, the OCR closed the investigation, the letter stated.
“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,” according to Newton North High School email written in response to the complaint. “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 North High School did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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