The battleground for America’s future is in our nation’s K-12 public schools. Public schools across the country have replaced traditional education with race-based programming in the name of “equity” that evidently justifies punishing students as young as four years old based on the color of their skin.
For years, critical race theory in schools flew under the radar, but now, thanks to investigative reporting by Christopher Rufo and others, parents have seen enough. They want their state-funded schools to stop promoting concepts like race essentialism that divide Americans into groups based solely on skin color.
America remains a government of laws, not men. The American Founders knew that a strong government could threaten liberty, so they dispersed powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and then placed ultimate sovereignty in the hands of the people. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 51, our federal structure assigns unique powers to each branch of government for “keeping each other in their proper places”—the critical separation of powers.
Public schools are an arm of the government. The check on their power resides in the courtroom. It is long-settled law in America that the government cannot discriminate against people because of the color of their skin. We call this equality under the law, and it is enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment and in our civil rights laws.
“Classifications of citizens solely on the basis of race are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality,” the Supreme Court has declared. “They threaten to stigmatize individuals by reason of their membership in a racial group and to incite racial hostility.”
It was to defend these principles that a brave teacher in Evanston, Illinois, represented by the Southeastern Legal Foundation, where I am general counsel, recently filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop Evanston/Skokie School District 65 from discriminating against its teachers and students on the basis of race through illegal and unconstitutional teacher training, classroom curriculum, and overall policies. The lawsuit became necessary after the Biden administration withdrew, without explanation or legal justification, the Department of Education’s January 2021 finding that the school district’s policies and procedures violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Since 2017, District 65 has openly declared its commitment “to focusing on race as one of the first visible indicators of identity.” The lawsuit challenges what this commitment looks like in practice. For example, the district required its teachers to attend mandatory “antiracist” training, part of which involved segregating teachers into racially exclusive affinity groups and requiring them to engage in racial discrimination against one another. District 65 also required teachers to participate in mandatory “privilege walks,” in which they were segregated by skin color. Through these trainings, teachers were conditioned to see one another’s skin color first and foremost.
District 65 then turned to students. It divided them into racially exclusive affinity groups, required them to participate in racially segregated “privilege” walks, and administered race surveys to students. The district’s curriculum for pre-K through eighth grade includes books that reinforce discriminatory messages, such as Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness.
Unfortunately, the facts of the lawsuit against District 65 are not unique. Parents and teachers across the United States need to speak up. Legislators need to uphold their oath to the Constitution. More lawsuits will no doubt be needed to stop school districts from implementing practices that turn the idea of “equity” into a license to punish Americans because of their skin color.