PLF attorneys recently learned that officials at a public charter school in North Carolina have organized a racially segregated club for “Girls of Color.” Caucasian girls are not allowed to join the club or to participate in any of the activities sponsored by the club. Not only is this shocking in this day and age, but the classification and the differential treatment of students according to race or ethnicity violate the Equal Protection Clauses of the both the North Carolina and federal Constitutions.
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment mandates that, “[n]o state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Supreme Court has recognized only one governmental interest that would justify the use of racial classifications in K-12 schools. That interest is to remedy the effects of past, intentional discrimination. Assertions of general societal discrimination are insufficient, and there is no evidence that the North Carolina school has ever intentionally discriminated against students on the basis of race.
The Girls of Color Club was formed to provide a “safe space,” where girls of color can explore and discuss their racial and ethnic identities. But a sincere desire help minority students cannot justify segregating children by race. Indeed, the Constitution does not permit race-based government decisionmaking simply because a school claims a remedial purpose and proceeds in good faith. It has been almost sixty-two years since the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education; separating students on the basis of race is as abhorrent today as it was then.
PLF sent a letter to the Director of the North Carolina school urging school officials to stop sponsoring racially segregated school activities.