RESOLVED OCR Complaint: Newton North High School

OCR Complaints

On October 4, 2022, Parents Defending Education (PDE) filed a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts 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 an audition packet for the school-sponsored performance of “Lost and Found” (Exhibit A), as well as a form for students to apply to audition (Exhibit B).

These exhibits reveal that Newton North High School is sponsoring a performance of a show, “Lost and Found: Our Stories as People of Color,” on January 19-21, 2023. The performance’s tag line is “Time and time again, the stories of people of color are swept under the rug and lost. It’s about time we found them.” Ex. A at 1. The description of the performance notes that “Lost and Found is a no-cut cabaret-style show for students of color at North. This show was created 2 years [ago] … to provide a safe community space for students of color to express themselves through the performing arts. … Lost and Found will be a reserved safe space for this exploration and for people of color to be vulnerable and support one another.” Ex. A at 2 (emphasis added).

In addition, the application to register for an audition slot requests a headshot (“You can take a selfie with a phone if you choose”), which appears to reinforce the identity-based nature of this event; furthermore, it asks students how they “identify racially/ethnically.” Ex. B at 1-2.

The performance description does not assert that participation in this performance is 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.

On February 28, 2023 the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into this complaint. See the letter here.

RESOLVED: On March 29, 2023 the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights resolved the complaint stating that the school district will no longer ask for students to identify their race on theater production applications and no longer ask for headshots to confirm skin color. See the letter here.