A Vermont school district modified its guidelines for its race-based affinity group to note that “all are welcome” amid a Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigation, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
In April, the OCR opened an investigation into Champlain Valley School District after Parents Defending Education (PDE), a parental rights group, filed a complaint alleging that Shelburne Community School was creating exclusive groups specifically for students and staff who were black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). During the investigation, the school district notified the OCR that the group is still being created and that it would not restrict students from joining the group based on their skin color, according to a letter obtained by the DCNF. (RELATED: Private School Offers Over 90 Student Clubs, Including ‘Trans,’ ‘Queer People Of Color’ Affinity Groups)
“Consciously separating students beginning in 3rd grade based on the color of their skin reinforces that segregation in public schools is okay,” Caroline Moore, vice president of PDE, told the DCNF. “Discrimination on the basis of immutable characteristics is never permissible. We can only hope Shelburne Community Schools learned from this slap on the wrist and discontinues this damaging affinity group.”
Shelburne was planning to create an “opt-in racial affinity group” for third- through eighth-grade students “identifying as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC),” PDE’s January complaint stated. Parents were encouraged to contact the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion coach if they were interested in signing their child up for the group, according to a school newsletter obtained by PDE.
The school district alerted the OCR during the investigation that they had updated the school newsletter to include in the BIPOC group’s description that “all are welcome” to attend no matter their race, the letter stated. The OCR confirmed the change and reviewed the newsletter during its investigation.
Schools throughout the nation are implementing affinity groups that separate students on the basis of race, in the name of diversity to give kids a space to discuss “race, empowerment and inclusivity.” Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in federally funded institutions such as schools.
In April, a Massachusetts school revised its race-based play auditions following an OCR investigation; PDE filed a complaint against Newton North High School for its production of “Lost and Found: Our Stories as People of Color,” alleging that it barred students from the play based on the color of their skin. Upon investigation, the OCR found that the school had revised its audition forms to limit the consideration of race and no longer require students to report how they racially identify.
Champlain Valley School District and Shelburne Community School did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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