Public Schools in Portland Face Civil Rights Complaints over Diversity Efforts

On Thursday, Portland Public Schools (PPS) were sued by an education advocacy group over claims that the school district’s push for diversity in disciplinary actions constitutes a violation of civil rights.

As reported by the Daily Caller, the watchdog group Parents Defending Education (PDE) accuses PPS of violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as other civil rights law, with its “Student Support and Discipline” policy. The policy forces teachers and staff members to address “disruptive student behavior” by taking into account the offending student’s identity, including race, gender, and sexual preference, before handing out punishment, if any. In addition, the policy orders the district to assign teachers based on race and gender.

The policy clearly states that staff members “must take into consideration the impact of issues related to the student’s trauma, race, gender identity/presentation, sexual orientation, disability, social emotional learning, and restorative justice as appropriate for the student.”

The district is forbidden from transferring a teacher from one school to another if it would ultimately “decrease the building’s percentage of under-represented male or female or transgender/nonbinary/gender non-conforming professional educators to less than thirty percent,” or if it would otherwise “decrease the building’s percentage of minority teachers to less than the student minority percentage in the building or below the percentage of minority professional educators in the District.”

“Portland Public Schools has enacted several concerning policies that treat students and educators differently based on race and gender identity,” PDE states in its lawsuit. “For instance, Portland Public Schools is disciplining some students and not others, solely based on immutable characteristics.”

In addition to the disciplinary policy, the district also requires all of its schools to hire a “School Climate Team,” which runs “ongoing training in implicit bias, antiracism and culturally responsive practices.”

PDE’s lawsuit comes in an environment where many legal actions are being taken against school districts across the country in the wake of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court last year. In the case, along with the concurrent Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, the court ruled that the practice of affirmative action – accepting student applications and other hiring decisions based solely on racial identity – was unconstitutional, and ordered it banned at a national level in universities and colleges across the country.

Although the Supreme Court kept its focus to higher education, many lawsuits and other complaints have cited this decision as a basis for similar actions against lower school districts and other entities which similarly discriminate based on race, gender, and other arbitrary identities.

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

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