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Conservative group files complaint after Ithaca school district's Black Lives Matter event

Megan Zerez
Ithaca City School District held its Black Lives Matter event last month.

The Ithaca City School District is among the latest to attract attention from the conservative "parents' rights" movement.

A Virginia-based group, Parents Defending Education, said it filed a federal civil rights complaint last week against the district. In it, the group alleged the district discriminated against white students during a Black Lives Matter event last month.

A flier from the district mentioned affinity group meetings for high school students and teachers who self-identify as Black, indigenous or people of color.

In the complaint, the conservative group said the meetings violated federal civil rights laws because they excluded students who identify as white. The group asked the Department of Education to investigate the district and the events.

Parents Defending Education, founded in 2021, appears to have filed at least 26 similar complaints against school districts nationwide. The Department of Education has not yet released rulings for any of those complaints.

The group’s website said it opposes “ideologically driven curriculums” that put emphasis on "race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender."

The Ithaca City School District did not respond to WSKG's request for comment.

In a letter to parents ahead of the event last month, the district said the goal was to encourage students and teachers to “embrace differences, examine biases, and advocate for justice.”

Other activities varied by grade level. Middle school students went on a field trip to the Harriet Tubman House in Auburn. Students at one elementary school learned about Black historical figures. Various hallway displays at Ithaca High School highlighted topics like Black joy and the principles behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

The district's Black Lives Matter event is based off a similar event first held by a group of Seattle teachers in 2016.