WILL Urges Madison West High School to Reconsider Racially Segregated Group Discussions

Madison West High School students were separated by race for group discussions

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a letter to administrators at Madison West High School urging the school to reconsider a series of school-sponsored racially segregated Zoom discussions. In recent weeks, West High School hosted virtual discussions on race and current events where students were segregated into one for white students and one for students of color. The discussions may violate federal law.

The Quote: WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg said, “It is head-spinning that a public school in Wisconsin would adopt racial segregation as a tool to confront racism in the twenty-first century. It is an affront to the hard-fought progress our country has made. Madison West ought to reverse course immediately and reject this unmistakably bad idea.”

Background: Madison West High School recently hosted “virtual discussion spaces” on race and current events for students and staff. But the high school took the unusual step of segregating the discussions by race: one for “white students” and one for “students of color.” An email from school officials encouraged students to “Please join the Zoom space where you most closely identify.”

These racially segregated discussion groups may constitute a federal Title VI violation. Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 generally prohibits “discrimination” “on the ground of race, color, or national origin” in federally funded programs, including schools. The Department of Education’s implementing regulations further make clear that schools covered by Title VI may not “[s]ubject an individual to segregation or separate treatment in any matter related to his receipt of any service … or other benefit.”

WILL intends to closely monitor this situation and hopes for a prompt response from Madison West High School administrators.

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