Parents Defending Education (PDE) brought the lawsuit on Monday, claiming the children of five parents were adversely impacted by the affinity groups and a biased speech policy that purportedly violates the First Amendment.
“It is appalling that an American public school has consciously implemented a policy to segregate students based on race and ethnicity,” said PDE President and founder Nicole Neily.
“Excluding children from activities based on immutable characteristics is not only immoral, but unconstitutional – and must be ended immediately – both in Wellesley and everywhere else this practice exists.”
According to the lawsuit, students also began self-censoring to avoid potential retaliation. One student was allegedly physically assaulted by classmates after they discovered his parent voted for former President Trump.
Wellesley Pubilc Schools (WPS) declined to comment on Monday’s lawsuit. It previously released a statement defending the affinity groups as a way to bolster inclusion.
“Our use of affinity spaces is not meant to drive conversations about race and equity into separate spaces, increasing social divisions,” read the statement from May.
“Rather, these spaces are one element of many aimed at strengthening our inclusive practices so that all members of our community feel valued, heard and a deep sense of belonging. To be successful, affinity spaces must exist within a broader environment of racial discourse. In short, it’s not an ‘either/or’ but rather a ‘both/and’ strategy.”
Fox News previously reported on PDE filing a federal complaint over the issue with the Department of Education. It alleged that WPS hosted an affinity space for Asian and Asian American students while explicitly excluding White individuals.
An email stated that the event was hosted by the “WPS Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” It was designated for students in grades 6-12 and “faculty/staff.”
“*Note: This is a safe space for our Asian/Asian-American and Students of Color, *not* for students who identify only as White,” a March 2021 email read.
The email from March adds: “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!”
WPS’ previous statement indicated that the teachers’ message was misconstrued.
“In an effort to further define this district invitation to an individual class of students in a developmentally appropriate manner, one of our teachers noted that this particular space was not designed for students who identify as white,” it read.
“The teacher’s intent, however imperfectly stated, was to help early secondary students better understand the intended audience for this affinity space, not prohibit anyone else from attending. No students or staff were turned away from participating in the healing space. In fact, participants on that day represented a range of racial groups, including white participants.”