A Washington school district plans to hold racially segregated meetings for parents and guardians who wish to participate in the search for a new superintendent.
As afternoon radio host Jason Rantz reported at MyNorthwest Wednesday, the Issaquah School District’s (ISD) weekly bulletin for February 7 listed its “upcoming events,” including the following:
- February 15 – Meeting for Parents/Guardians of Color and Parents/Guardians with Students of Color to Give Input About Superintendent Search, 6 p.m., Zoom
- February 17 – Meetings for Parents/Guardians to Give Input About Superintendent Search, 9 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., Zoom
NEW: A Seattle-area school district is holding racially segregated meetings for parents to help pick a new superintendent.
Despite hosting a meeting labeled “for parents of color,” the district claims it’s not a meeting for people based on skin color.https://t.co/ZaC88qgSY1
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) February 9, 2022
“The intent of the meetings is quite clear,” Rantz wrote, adding:
If you’re a white parent, you ought to skip the first meeting. It’s not for you. You’re the wrong skin color. There’s a caveat if you have a child who is a racial minority. Then, you may attend. Otherwise, all white parents should attend one of the other two meetings.
Rantz said his show received an email from ISD spokesperson Lesha Engels, who denied the separate meeting “for Parents/Guardians of Color” is an example of racial segregation.
“All parents are welcome to attend any of the 4 parent meetings, they are not segregated,” Engels emailed the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “The district’s intent is to provide multiple opportunities for all members of our community to voice their thoughts.”
Nothing says promoting equity like racially segregated meetings in the @IssaquahSchools district. https://t.co/ZaC88qgSY1
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) February 9, 2022
Rantz characterized Engels’ statement as “transparently incompetent spin.”
“It does not say nor is it labeled that individuals of any race may not attend any of the meetings,” Engels added in her response. “The fact shared before remains: all parents are welcome to attend any of the 4 parent meetings.”
The radio host fumed at what he referred to as “semantic games”:
As she pretends it’s not controversial and racist to hold meetings on the basis of skin color, would she defend a meeting listed “for Parents/Guardians of Whiteness?” In fact, shouldn’t there be a meeting exclusively for white parents? After all, if the content of these meetings is catered toward “parents of color,” then white parents aren’t getting information tailormade for them, right?
Rantz said the wording of Engels’ response is “almost certainly driven by the law,” which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.
“They may not be able to legally discriminate, and obviously won’t admit that’s their intent in writing, but they can strongly imply that white people aren’t welcome,” he said.
The notion that parents of color and white parents should receive information about the search for a new superintendent, designed exclusively for them based upon their race, is “ridiculous,” Rantz asserted.
“The school would never do that because it’s racist,” he said. “But when white privileged parents are the victims? Well, intersectional politics says it’s justified in the name of equity.”
Retiring Superintendent Ron Thiele states on his website a primary focus of the academic year has been “equity”:
The pandemic further exposed many of the deeply rooted inequities in our society that are based on race, income, disability, language ability and many other factors. We will not ignore the ways that these inequities harm our own students, and we will continue our work of identifying and addressing these inequities in our own school system.
7/ Unfortunately, race-based “affinity groups” have gained traction beyond Wellesley; to see a list of other public school districts with similarly exclusive “affinity groups” go to to our website⬇️
— Parents Defending Education (@DefendingEd) February 9, 2022
This week, a federal lawsuit filed by grassroots parental rights organization Parents Defending Education (PDE) against Wellesley Public Schools (WPS) in Massachusetts ended in a settlement agreement that will put a stop to “affinity groups” that excluded students based on their race.
PDE reported its lawsuit in October:
As part of Wellesley Public Schools’ “Strategic Equity Plan [for] 2020-2025,” the district adopted a policy of hosting racially-segregated affinity groups, asserting that this practice is necessary to achieve “racial equity.” According to WPS, its racial affinity groups allow “people within an identity group to openly share their experiences without risk of feeling like they will offend someone from another group, and without another group’s voices” – demonstrating that the racial affinity group policy was designed to be exclusionary.
The Star News Network reached out to PDE for comment about the ISD decision to advertise separate superintendent search meetings for parents of color.
PDE Director of Outreach Erika Sanzi said in response, “This practice in schools of separating families by race is a trend that has parents throughout the country alarmed.”
“Sadly, students are increasingly being affected by it as they are sorted and separated by race during the school day or for special events at lunch and after-school,” she added. “School leaders and school boards seem to lack a clear understanding of what Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 actually says.”
The Star News Network reached out to the ISD school board for comment and received an automatic email reply from Diane Ghanbari, executive assistant to the superintendent, acknowledging the email.
“Please be assured that all members of the Board have received your message for consideration; any questions, concerns and suggestions will be reviewed,” the message stated.
No response to the request for comment, however, has been forthcoming to date.
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Issaquah School Board” by Issaquah School District.