A federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Parents Defending Education (PDE) against Massachusetts’s Wellesley Public Schools ended in a settlement Monday as the school district agreed to end its racial segregation policy and First Amendment violations.
The lawsuit was brought in response to the district’s promotion of racially segregated “affinity groups” and “bias response teams” that inherently counteract the First Amendment rights of students.
Wellesley’s stated goal was the following:
To, among other things, “pursue justice for … historically marginalized communities,” “continuously examine systems of privilege and bias,” “work collectively to disrupt and dismantle inequity in all its forms,” and achieve “racial equity.” … In order to “nurture and affirm positive racial identity development.”
And despite the fact that the school district denied that any students were excluded based on their race, PDE’s lawsuit merely pointed to an email regarding the “affinity groups,” which stated, in part, the following:
*Note: This is a safe space for our Asian/Asian-American and Students of Color, *not* for students who identify only as White. If you identify as White, and need help to process recent events, please know I’m here for you as well as your guidance counselors. If you need to know more about why this is not for White students, please ask me! [Emphasis added].
PDE argued that proponents of “affinity groups” believe racial segregation is “essential” in order for students to “share freely and without inhibition about their experiences.”
According to a PDE press release about the settlement, the school district “will be issuing a statement that it never should have – and never will again – suggest to parents that their children can be excluded from school-sponsored events because of their race.”
Additionally, Wellesley’s “Bias Reporting Structure,” which “gave the school the power to punish speech simply because others believed it was ‘offensive’ or showed ‘conscious or unconscious bias,’” has been terminated and “will never be reinstated.”
“Parents Defending Education is thrilled that Wellesley Public Schools has agreed to respect both the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of its students going forward,” PDE President and Founder Nicole Neily said. “This settlement sends a clear message that racially segregating students in public schools is wrong – and there will be consequences. We have spent decades teaching our kids that racial segregation was and will always be wrong. We will not tolerate a return to segregation in 2022.”
But Wellesey is not the only district that pursues resegregation.
By PDE’s count, there are at least 13 other school districts, including major ones like Denver, Colorado; Indianapolis, Indiana; Seattle, Washington, and Washington, DC.