Activist Group Slams City of Evanston for ‘Repugnant’ Back-to-School Plan

Illinois District considering plan to give 'marginalized' students first dibs on in-person learning

A sign for a school in Chicago, Ill. / Getty Images

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sent a letter urging the Evanston, Illinois, school board to abandon the use of race as a factor after the city's school superintendent said he would prioritize the return of minority students to the classroom.

SFFA lawyer Daniel Woodring says that sort of race-based preferential treatment violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, an argument the group is also pursuing in a lawsuit against Harvard University for its use of race in admissions.

According to local paper Evanston Now, Evanston school superintendent Devon Horton will favor "marginalized" students—that is, special education students, students of color, and LGBTQ students—for a return to the classroom.

Horton claimed that "inequality, racism, and classism" made for "a pandemic before this."

"We have to make sure students who have been oppressed will be given the first opportunities," he said.

If Evanston adopts the policy, it will become one of the first districts in the country to provide in-person learning opportunities to black and brown students only.

SFFA president Edward Blum said that Dr. Horton's proposal would keep most white and Asian-American students out of the classroom and called it "repugnant and unconstitutional."

The Evanston school board disagrees. "When you challenge policies and protocols established to ensure an equitable experience for black and brown students, you are part of a continuum of resistance to equity and desire to maintain white supremacy," it said in a community letter.

SFFA fired back, arguing that basing public services on race is "unconstitutional and inequitable" for all students.

"The board should be working to eliminate racial barriers and racial stereotypes, not reinforce them," the SFFA letter reads.