Federal Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against Denver Schools over Racial Segregation

Elementary school kids raising hands to teacher, back view
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A civil rights complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education against Denver Public Schools (DPS) after one of its elementary schools hosted a racially segregated “families of color playground night.”

Parents Defending Education (PDE), an education advocacy organization, filed the complaint Friday afternoon with President Nicole Neily saying “The Centennial Elementary School is the latest in a string of schools across the country treating and separating students on the basis of race.”

“This practice is both immoral and unconstitutional,” Neily continued. “Although the ‘families of color playground night’ gained attention this week, we discovered that this program – which is run by the school’s ‘dean of culture’ – has been going on since October.”

The issue blew up on social media after pictures of the sign reading “Families of Color Playground Night” made its rounds on the internet. The Denver Gazette reported the Centennial principal was “afraid to answer the phone,” according to DPS spokesman Will Jones.

Jones also told the Gazette that his email inbox was “flooded with angry messages from all over the country … accusing the school district of the worst form of racism.”

But feelings appear to be mixed in the community.

Faisal Salahuddin, a Pakistani American civil rights attorney who lives across the street from the school, told the Gazette he has taken his daughter there before, but has joked with the child’s mother, who is white, whether or not she should attend.

“The message could have been better,” Salahuddin said. “But the intent was to encourage more families of color to be present and involved. When we are looking at a neighborhood as gentrified as ours, we should extend the school some grace.”

Another neighbor, Bud King, said he can “see both sides,” but determined that “it’s not fair to the other kids. What if the sign said, ‘White kids only’?”

University of Denver constitutional law professor Dave Kopel, on the other hand, believes the event is a clear violation of Colorado’s Constitution.

While the school district insists that “all families are welcome to attend all of our events,” Kopel asks “then why isn’t it called ‘Family Night’?”

“What if that sign had said ‘White Family Night’?” Kopel continued, “But then the school said, ‘Oh, people of color can come too.'”

The relevant portion of Colorado’s Constitution Kopel cites says:

No sectarian tenets or doctrines shall ever be taught in the public school, not shall any distinction or classification of pupils be made on account of race or color, nor shall any pupil be assigned or transported to an public educational institution for the purpose of achieving racial balance.

PDE believes the event also violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the U.S. Constitution as the event “discriminat[es] on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.”

School district officials, on the other hand, maintain that the events are about “uniting us, not dividing us,” according to the Gazette.

“School leaders at Centennial received a specific request from families to create a space of belonging,” they said. “Centennial was responsive to their request. We support efforts like this as they provide connections, support and inspiration for families which share similar experiences and come from similar backgrounds.”

Anti-critical race theory journalist Christopher Rufo, however, told Fox News that the event is “racism under the guise of equity.”

Doubling down, school officials say Families of Color Playground Night will continue next year.

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.

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