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Superintendent’s George Floyd message that school district is racist draws federal civil rights complaint

‘We operate within systems that…clearly privilege one race over another’

The advocacy organization Parents Defending Education recently filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Webster Groves K-12 school district in Missouri for racial discrimination, according to the complaint obtained by The College Fix.

In June 2020, district Superintendent John Simpson posted to the school’s blog site claiming that the school district contributed to inequitable systems which disadvantaged its black students. It was part of a blog post lamenting the death of George Floyd.

“I’m not saying that all police officers are bad or all educators are bad, but they (we) operate within systems that, by their outcomes, clearly privilege one race over another. It’s undeniable,” Simpson wrote.

“As your superintendent and as a white man, I must hold myself and our school system to a greater level of accountability in how we see and support our Black children, staff and parents and how our work is leading to the dismantling of the inequitable systems and structures within our district.”

Parents Defending Education argues in its March 30 complaint that his statement should count as an admission that Webster Groves violated Title VI of the Civil Rights act of 1964.

That section of the act mandates that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber made a similar statement last year, about racism being embedded in his university. That statement led to Princeton being investigated by the Department of Education for possible Title VI violations.

Parents Defending Education argues in the complaint to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights that Superintendent Simpson and Webster Groves should fall under the same precedent.

Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily explained in a phone interview with The College Fix that her organization takes statements on racism from school officials very seriously.

“A superintendent in the Webster Groves school district in Missouri put out [a blog post] last summer saying that ‘we are racist, I am racist’ and we believe that that is a really serious statement,” Neily said. “As a public school, they’re receiving federal money, they’re receiving state money, and that’s illegal.”

Neily, who also founded Speech First, said she was told by many education policy experts that her request was not likely to be taken seriously by the Biden administration.

“I’ve spoken with some education policy scholars who, perhaps cynically, don’t believe that such a complaint will be taken seriously by the Biden administration’s Department of Education,” she said.

“I hope that is not the case because civil rights are not a partisan issue,” she said.

Simpson did not respond to several requests for comment from The College Fix over the last week about racial discrimination in his school district.

MORE: Ed Dept. investigating Princeton after its president claims campus is racist

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About the Author
Jackson Walker -- University of Wisconsin Madison