The U.S. Department of Education suspended an investigation that found students and faculty at an Illinois school were discriminated against through the use of racial “affinity groups,” Fox News has learned.
The Department of Education suspended a Trump administration decision regarding a civil rights complaint from a teacher in the Evanston-Skokie School District near Chicago following President Biden’s executive orders on racial equity.
The school district was reported as using racial “affinity groups” and other alleged practices in an attempt to combat discrimination and “White privilege” by segregating students and staff based on their race. The practice was determined to be discriminatory by the Trump-era Education Department.
The Evanston-Skokie School District confirmed to Fox News that the investigation had been put on ice.
“In January, the proceedings were suspended by OCR pending its reconsideration of the case in light of the executive orders on racial equity issued by President Biden,” a spokesperson for the school district told Fox News. “At this time, there is no final decision in place.”
Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah – who sits on the House Education and Labor Committee – ripped the Biden administration’s decision to suspend the investigation.
“Shame on the Biden administration for allowing segregation in American schools to go unchecked,” Owens told Fox News.
The Department of Education told Fox News that “privacy reasons” prevented the agency from commenting “on specific facts and circumstances” regarding open cases, such as the Evanston-Skokie civil rights complaint.
“OCR can confirm, however, that it previously opened an investigation of a complaint on the basis of race against the Evanston/Skokie School District (IL) for possible violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance,” the agency said in a statement to Fox.
The agency’s move to pause the decision was first reported by the New York Post on Sunday.
The Post reported that the decision in question was written in early January by Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enforcement director Carol Ashley – but it was frozen two days after Biden took office in January due to the president’s executive orders on racial minority and LGBT equity.
Ashley had determined in a letter of finding regarding the complaint that the school district in Evanston-Skokie had violated civil rights law through its use of racial “affinity groups” and other practices.
Specifically, the Department of Education reported that the Evanston-Skokie school district gave staff “explicit direction” to take a student’s race into account while disciplining. The district also reportedly separated administrators into White and non-White groups based on their race during a training program in summer 2019.
The school district also reportedly held a “Colorism Privilege Walk” for seventh- and eighth-grade students in addition to the racial “affinity groups” that students and staff were separated into.
The lesson plan said the goal of the “Colorism Privilege Walk” was for students to “learn more about White privilege, internalized dominance, microaggressions and how to act as an ally for students of color,” according to the Post.
“If you are White take two steps forward. If you’re a person of color with dark skin, take two steps back. If you’re Black, take two steps back,” the privilege walk exercise said, the Post reported.
Ashley had said in the decision that the school’s use of affinity groups “reduced” the students and their instructors to “a set of racial stereotypes” when the school “deliberately” separated children and their instructors based on race.
She wrote in the letter of finding that the school violated “Title 6 regulation” when they “engaged in intentional race discrimination” through the use of “racially exclusive affinity groups.” Ashley added that the use of the groups “resulted in the separation of participants in district programs based on race.”
The “materials would have led students to be treated differently based on their race” and would “depriv[e] them” of a classroom “free from racial recrimination and hostility,” Ashley wrote.
“Such treatment has no place in federally-funded programs or activities, nor is it protected by the First Amendment,” Ashley said, adding that the school district’s “policy to impose racial discrimination in discipline has no part in federally funded education programs or activities.”
After writing the letter of finding, Ashley called the teacher who filed the complaint – who remained anonymous in the report – on Jan. 6 to tell them the letter had been issued, adding that the teacher could not get a copy of the letter until the Department of Education had finished their compliance resolution.
Then, two days into the Biden administration, the Evanston-Skokie teacher got another call from Ashley – this time saying the decision on the complaint was now frozen because of Biden’s executive orders, the Post reported.
The anonymous teacher reportedly said they were “concerned with staff and student safety due to the Department of Education Title VI violation findings” stemming from her complaint.
If the decision is implemented, the ruling could affect school districts outside of Evanston-Skokie, such as in New York.
The Post reported last year that teachers in New York City were segregated into racial “affinity groups” by the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Division during their “Anti-racist Community Meeting” following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer.
Education is quickly becoming a hot topic as schools across the country remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and programs are targeted by various organizations.
IntegrateNYC, a left-leaning “youth-led organization that stands for equity and justice in our schools,” recently announced a lawsuit taking aim at the Big Apple’s high school admissions systems.
The group alleges that the system has widened racial inequality by sorting students into different academic tracks based on test scores from as young as 4 years old.