OCR Complaint: Lower Merion School District

OCR Complaints

On January 31, 2023, Parents Defending Education (PDE) filed a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against Lower Merion School District in Ardmore, Pennsylvania for discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance in violation of both Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

PDE makes this complaint as an interested third-party organization that opposes racial discrimination and political indoctrination in America’s schools. Attached to this complaint is supporting evidence in the form of the district’s use of racial affinity groups (Exhibit A), which promotes the district’s “Equity Efforts,” which can also be found online at https://www.lmsd.org/equity, a first grade lesson plan titled “Cultural Proficiency for Kids” (Exhibit B), and a school district lesson plan titled “Cultural Proficiency for Kids” (Exhibit C).

The Lower Merion School District Middle School REACH affinity group offers a questionnaire for affinity group members, which asks what students are most interested. Optional responses include: “activism opportunities” and “meeting with middle school students of color from different school districts in PA.”

Lower Merion School District offers a course titled “Cultural Proficiency for Kids,” which states its primary intent is to “increase students’ understanding of identity and diversity” (Ex. C at 1). The lessons for this course were revised to “include equity, justice, and antiracism.” The Lower Merion School District’s website states that “research suggests that babies as young as 7 months can discern race and show preferences,” which can be found in the below exhibit (Ex. C at 1).

Exhibit A reveals that Lower Merion’s School District’s “Equity Efforts” is only open to students of specific ethnicities (“Students of color are invited to join Becton Scholars at LMHS and POWER Scholars at HHS, which are affinity groups that help cultivate academic excellence and leadership and give students a safe space to engage in conversations and activities to voice their ideas, differences, goals, along with celebrating their cultural heritage” Ex. A at 7). The program description does not make participation in this affinity group open to all.

Accordingly, we ask that the Department promptly investigate the allegations in this complaint, act swiftly to remedy unlawful policies and practices, and order appropriate relief.