Judicial Watch: Records Show D.C. Schools Pushed Racial Segregation in Employee ‘Affinity Spaces’
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it received 194 pages of records from District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) which show DC officials pushed segregated “Affinity Spaces” on the basis of race and sexual identity.
Judicial Watch obtained the records in response to a June 24, 2021, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for:
Records identifying the number of affinity spaces hosted by District of Columbia Public Schools from August 31, 2020 to June 24, 2021.
Records identifying the topics discussed during any affinity spaces hosted by District of Columbia Public Schools from August 31, 2020 to June 24, 2021.
Records inviting students, faculty, and staff to affinity spaces hosted by District of Columbia Public Schools from August 31, 2020 to June 24, 2021.
Records, including policies and procedures, regarding the creation and use of “affinity spaces.”
Any analyses of whether affinity spaces excluding students, faculty, and staff who identify as a specific race or gender is consistent with district and federal law, including but not limited to 42 U.S.C. 2000d and the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The records include a DCPS September 2021 PowerPoint presentation titled “DCPS Affinity Group Interest Form” stating:
DCPS staff: The Equity Strategy and Programming Team initially launched affinity spaces as safe spaces for you to reflect and process following the murder of George Floyd, and we are going to continue them throughout the 21-22 school year as a place for folks to reflect and continue to learn and grow.
One way to process in a safe space is through affinity. Affinity spaces are gathering opportunities for people who share a common identity. This space will be organized based on the racial identities represented in Central Office as we aim to lean into the Courageous Conversation condition of isolating race.
For more information about the benefit of racial affinity groups, please leverage this Learning for Justice resource: https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/summer-2015/making-space
DCPS Central Office staff from the Equity, Community Action and SEL [Social and Emotional Learning] Teams will co-facilitate these affinity groups in collaboration with volunteers at least once a month but more frequently as requested by the group.
A form in the presentation asks respondents to submit their pronouns, which include she/her, she/they, he/him, he/they, they/them, ze/hir, she/he/they, or “other.”
DCPS staff is asked to select “Which racial affinity group(s) do you plan to join via Teams? (Select all that apply to you and your racial identities. A separate calendar/Teams invite will come from the DCPS Equity calendar.):”
Asian American Pacific Islander
Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx
Indigenous/Native American, Multi-Racial, White
I am not represented by any of these options and want to recommend another group.
The form adds: “As we define race, it can be easy to conflate race with ethnicity or nationality because the definition and boundaries are always changing. Use the US Census (https://www.census.gov/topics/population/race/about.html ) as a guide but do not let it limit you based on how you personally identify racially.
The form also asks if respondents are interested in new LGBTQIA+ “Affinity Spaces.” Those spaces are divided into “BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) LGBTQIA+” and “White LGBTQIA+.”
A DCPS memo details events to be held in June 2021 and is titled “Proposed Engagement in Response to Recent Racial Incidents” begins: “These are troubling times. I imagine that we all are struggling to make sense of the murder of George Floyd and the continued racial violence and racism that people of color, but black people specifically, endure at the hands of the police, other systems and individuals.”
A table of proposed events in the memo includes an “Affinity Group Brown Bag” that is described as a “Moderated space for CO [Central Office] staff to reflect, connect, feel, share, strategize in smaller, affinity (Black, White, Latinx, Asian) space: Focus on self-awareness, identity and cultural awareness.”
An undated email from the DCPS Equity Team to AAPI Affinity (DCPS); Black Affinity (DCPS); Hispanic/Latinx Affinity (DCPS); Multi-Racial Affinity (DCPS); White Affinity (DCPS); and many individual DCPS members with the subject line “Cross-Racial Affinity Space (led by the Multi-Racial Affinity Group)” informs recipients that: “The Multi-Racial Affinity group is tentative to lead a cross-racial affinity space during the week of August 9th – August 13th ”:
Cross-Racial Affinity Space Schedule
The current schedule for cross-racial dialogue is as follows (open to all affinity group members) to be led by respective affinity groups). Dates may change if conflicts arise for a majority of attendees:
* October: To be led by the Hispanic/Latino/Latinx affinity group
* December: To be led by the White affinity group
* February: To be led by the Black affinity group
*May: To be led by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) affinity group
* August: To be led by the Multi-Racial affinity group
A few guiding norms and goals for all affinity spaces:
- Go beyond celebration: Central Office (CO) affinity spaces will ensure that the conversation translates identity-related issues into action that helps mitigate those issues in our teams, offices and CO.
- Isolate Race: CO affinity spaces will leverage the Courageous Conversation protocol <http://iel.org/sites/default/files/G10-courageous-conversationprotocol-overview.pdf> [no longer available on the IEL website] – especially the norm of isolating race – in dialogue and collaboration.
- A lens for equity: As CO affinity spaces transition from conversation into action, spaces will ensure those actions are rooted in an equity lens that focuses on policy, identity and mindsets, practices and culture. The DCPS Equity Framework <https://dcps.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dcps/page_content/attachments/DCPS%20Equity%20Framework_2018.pdf> is a foundational resource for exploring goals and objectives through an equity lens.
- Create Cross-Racial Learning Opportunities: CO affinity spaces will come together in one space for interracial dialogue and learning led by a respective affinity group every other month.
A January 26, 2021, email from former DCPS Equity Strategy and Programming Team member Elizabeth Rene, who now works at Google, introduces to her then-colleagues what is called the “Anti-Racist Educator University,” which is touted as the first such endeavor “led by any school district.” The email states:
Many of you have engaged in conversations about race and equity with your students, families and colleagues. However, many more of you have asked how to translate those conversations into action.
Anti-Racist Educator University is an opportunity to proactively apply what we’ve learned about race and equity to our daily practice in the classroom as well as shifting policies, mindsets and culture.
Anti-Racist Educator University is a strategic lever that provides DCPS educators with shared learning rooted in a collective commitment to active anti-racism….
A June 16, 2021, email from Samuel Cuadro of DCPS to Principal Katie Lundgren and several colleagues states: “[T]he goal of these affinity groups is to create a safe space among colleagues to process the impacts of racism and white supremacy within our school community and identify collective actions to take as individuals and as groups.”
“These shocking documents show, in evident violation of the Constitution and civil rights laws, that the public school system of our nation’s capital pushed blatant racial segregation among its staff based on radical, divisive CRT principles,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Judicial Watch recently released records revealing critical race theory (CRT) instruction at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. One training slide contains a graphic titled “MODERN-DAY SLAVERY IN THE USA.”
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau records obtained in February 2022 included a PowerPoint presentation titled “Race and gender based microaggressions” that was used for training at the organization.
In June 2022, Judicial Watch appealed a federal court decision dismissing a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of David Flynn, a Massachusetts father who was fired from his position as high school football coach after he raised concerns over Black Lives Matter/critical race theory being taught in his daughter’s seventh-grade ancient history class
In January, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for all FBI records related to the October 4, 2021, memorandum issued by Attorney General Garland targeting parents who raised objections to Critical Race Theory in schools.
In November 2021, Judicial Watch announced that it received two sets of new records related to the teaching of critical race theory in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), Maryland’s largest school system. The new records include a training course with information about a book titled “Antiracist Baby” that introduces the youngest readers to “the concept and power of antiracism,” and says it’s the “perfect gift” for “ages baby to age 3.”
Records received from Loudoun County, VA, that Judicial Watch made public in October 2021, revealed a coordinated effort to advance critical race theory initiatives in Loudoun County public schools despite widespread public opposition.
Also in October 2021, Judicial Watch announced that it received a training document from a whistleblower in the Westerly School District of Rhode Island, which details how Westerly Public Schools are using teachers to push critical race theory in classrooms.
Records from Wellesley Public Schools in Massachusetts, released by Judicial Watch in June 2021, confirmed the use of “affinity spaces” that divide students and staff based on race as a priority and objective of the school district’s “diversity, equity and inclusion” plan. The school district also admitted that between September 1, 2020, and May 17, 2021, it created “five distinct” segregated spaces.