Press Release: DFI Files Federal Civil Rights Complaint Against Chicago-area School District Over Race-Based Grading System

June 1, 2022

WASHINGTON—Today, the Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies filed a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), asking it to investigate efforts by a Chicago-area school district to implement a policy that includes a race-based grading system.

As part of its “Transformative Education” plan, the Oak Park and River Forest School District 200 (District 200) in Oak Park, Illinois, will incorporate “evidence-backed research” and a “racial equity analysis tool” in its review of grading practices across its courses.

As part of this process, it will require administrators and teachers to “clearly define” the “purpose for grading” and “proficiency” as it creates a “Philosophy of Grading.” Through this new philosophy, schools are charged with eliminating what the school district deems “policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce or fail to eliminate different outcomes by race.” Those policies include penalizing students for missing class, misbehaving, and failing to turn in assignments. 

“District 200 seeks to implement a race-based grading policy that not only violates the Constitution and civil rights law but also harms the very students it is intended to help,” said DFI President Robert S. Eitel. “Instead of focusing on the real issue at hand—the lack of  education freedom for these students, who have to rely on a government-run K-12 school system that consistently fails them—the district wants to obfuscate by eliminating objective measures of academic achievement.  This not only sets up students for failure in life but also stigmatizes students of certain races by sending the message that without the help of policies that discriminate against their peers, they cannot succeed. We are asking OCR quickly to investigate and end these unlawful racially discriminatory policies.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.  DFI filed its complaint as an interested third-party organization that strongly supports constitutional and statutory prohibitions on school policies that are based on race-based stereotypes or that arise from adverse or preferential treatment based on race.

To read the complaint, click here.