Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: DFI Demands Civil Rights Investigation into an Illinois Public School Segregating Students, Classes by Race

WASHINGTON—The Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) filed a civil rights complaint today with the U.S. Department of Education demanding it investigate Evanston Township High School (ETHS), due to reports that it segregates black and Hispanic students from their white peers taking English, Precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and Algebra 2.

The programs titled “Advancing Excellence, Lifting Everyone” (AXLE) and GANAS—named for a Spanish-language expression that means “giving it all you’ve got”—were promoted to students as racial affinity programs “restricted to” those “who identify as” black or “Latinx,” respectively, to raise academic achievement for these specific students.  

Following public outcry and negative media exposure, ETHS revised each racial affinity course description in April 2023 to claim that, “[w]hile open to all students, this optional section of the course is intended to support students who identify as” black or “Latinx.” Despite the revision, it’s clear that ETHS intends to continue to exclude students based on their race or ethnicity.  As ETHS Superintendent Marcus Campbell explained, “If push came to shove and you look at the master schedule, and a kid needs calculus that period and there’s nothing else that works and that kid is white, of course we’ll put them in the affinity class.”

DFI’s letter to OCR states, “The superintendent’s statement is a clear signal that, despite the written policy contained in the racial affinity class descriptions indicating that each course is open to all students, the district maintains unwritten policies excluding non-black or non-Hispanic students, respectively, from these courses in all but the most unusual circumstances. This discrepancy between the 2023–24 course descriptions and the superintendent’s comments is ripe for a thorough investigation by OCR to determine what the actual policy of ETHS is toward admitting non-black and non-Hispanic students to racial affinity classes.”

The complaint further explains why ETHS’s claims that the classes are supposedly “open to all students,” in spite of their race-based descriptions, are unavailing under the Constitution and civil rights law: “Suppose a school posted a sign above a water fountain in its hallway stating as follows: ‘While open to all students, this water fountain is intended to quench the thirst of black students.’ Such a race-based classification would no doubt be subject to strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause and would violate its anti-discrimination mandate, as well as that of Title VI. ETHS’s racial affinity classes are no different.”

DFI Policy Counsel Paul Zimmerman said of the “racial affinity” classes, “Beyond their clear violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, these racially discriminatory policies are perverse because they stigmatize black and Hispanic students as unable to succeed in a diverse environment. Instead of unlawfully sheltering students from their peers based on what they look like or where they came from, ETHS should challenge its students to succeed in any academic setting and offer supports based on the needs of each individual student—not on the basis of race.”

To read DFI’s civil rights complaint against ETHS, click here.