City and School District divide groups by race for community conversation
The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a letter to the Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD) and the City of Sun Prairie urging the government bodies to drop the use of racially segregated “affinity groups” for a public community conversation. According to publicly distributed materials for the “Sun Prairie Community Conversations on Race, Equity, and Inclusion,” a sign-up sheet directs participants to “only sign up for the conversation for the race that you identify with.”
The Quote: WILL President and General Counsel, Rick Esenberg, said, “Racial segregation is never beneficial, it is never benign, it is always harmful. The City of Sun Prairie and the Sun Prairie Area School District should immediately reconsider their use of racial segregation at this public event.”
Background: WILL became aware of an upcoming event entitled, “Sun Prairie Community Conversations on Race, Equity, and Inclusion.” This event is sponsored and organized by the Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD) and the City of Sun Prairie. The purpose of this event is to advance “racial justice and equity,” and according to available materials, public tax dollars have and will continue to be used to sponsor it.
According to materials prepared by SPASD, the program will include “a series of intra- and inter-racial conversations” to serve as “effective catalysts for racial justice and racial healing.” The sign-up sheet directs participants to “only sign up for the conversation for the race that you identify with.” Participants are given the option to sign up with a group for East Indians, Asians, Whites, Blacks, Latinx, and a Multiracial group.
Federal law prohibits governments, including cities and school boards, from imposing racial classifications or otherwise treating individuals differently based on race. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 broadly prevents discrimination based on race by entities, such as SPASD and the City of Sun Prairie, that receive federal assistance. Since 1978, the Supreme Court has held cities and school boards liable for violating equal protection guarantees under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Furthermore, federal grant recipients that violate non-discrimination laws face the possibility of audit, additional oversight, and grant revocation under the terms of any federal grant.
WILL recently issued letters to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) urging the school district to drop racially segregated school conversations. MMSD officials apologized after WILL issued the letter.