Posted on February 26, 2024

Wisconsin School District Is Slammed for Offering ‘Whites Only’ Racism Class

Rachel Bowman, Daily Mail, February 24, 2024

A Wisconsin school district has been criticized for offering a whites only racism class that encourages participants to explore their ‘privilege, whiteness and racism.’

In an email shared on social media, Director of Student, Family and Staff Engagement at Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, Mr. Tony R. Dugas, invited the community to participate in a ‘powerful’ 10-week ‘Witnessing Whiteness’ series ‘meticulously crafted for white individuals committed to anti-racism work.’

Parents Defending Education is now filing a discrimination complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District for offering the course.

The complaint claims the class violates Title VI and the 14th Amendment because it uses federal funding for discrimination on the basis of race and national origin.

Parents Defending Education Vice President Caroline Moore told ‘Specifically targeting students based on race or sex is blatant discrimination and has no place in public schools.’

‘All students, no matter their background, country of origin, sex, or race are allowed to participate in all educational programming. Any school that doesn’t meet this low bar should file paperwork to open a private school,’ she added. has contacted the school district and directors for comment.

Dugas said in the invitation that the class uses the Witnessing Whiteness book by Shelly Tochluk and curriculum to lead a discussion of a group of 20 or fewer white people.

‘In this affinity space, for white attendees, we foster an environment of profound exploration through experiential activities, group discussions, breakout rooms, and interactive learning,’ Dugas said.

‘The series aims to build a community with a shared grasp of privilege, whiteness, and racism, enhancing your ability to initiate, support, and deepen racial justice efforts.’

‘Moreover, it is designed to cultivate leadership capacities in the realms of diversity, inclusion, and race.’

Tochluk’s website describes the book as ‘a comprehensive, nuanced, step-by-step path toward deeper understanding of race and antiracist action.’

Parents Defending Education argued the program is dividing the community because it discriminates based on race.

‘The invitation claims that the affinity space “cultivate[s] leadership capacities in the realms of diversity, inclusion, and race,” but by dividing students and parents based on skin color and ethnicity, it is in fact doing the exact opposite,’ the complaint said.

‘Affinity groups were created for students to bond around a common interest or hobby. Unfortunately, in the last several years, affinity groups have divulged into groups that intentionally separate students based on their race or sex,’ Moore added.

The complaint sites a previous ruling from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights that found the Oak Park River Forest High School District in Illinois discriminated against students on the basis of race by hosting a Black Lives Matter assembly for only African American students in 2015.

A user on X, formerly known as Twitter, said they contacted the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board President, Sheila Hibner, about the Witnessing Whiteness group.

‘This is an optional professional learning opportunity that is not facilitated by MCPASD staff,’ Hibner said in the reply that was posted on social media.

‘It was shared because we received requests from out staff for learning opportunities like this one,’ she added.

‘As out district becomes more and more racially diverse, we want to provide our staff with tools and resources that are helpful in their work with students and families’.

Webster University has been offering a free Witnessing Whiteness program for the St. Louis area faculty and staff – in collaboration with the Young Women’s Christian Association – for the past three years.

‘My motivation for joining the Witnessing Whiteness program was because I want to be a part of living and working in communities that are intentionally working towards racial equity,’ said Webster University Director of Global Program Development Hannah Verity.

‘As a white person in America today you don’t necessarily understand the full history of what black people have gone through in this country and why,’ added Director of Parent Engagement Billy Ratz.

‘Witnessing Whiteness opens your eyes to that and it makes you really understand the full historical significance of the laws that are passed and just the institutional racism across the country.’

The Young Women’s Christian Association instructors lead 10 two-hour sessions over 15 weeks to teach each chapter of Tochluk’s book.

According to Webster University, the Young Women’s Christian Association has been sponsoring Witnessing Whiteness groups since 2011.

Adrian E. Bracy, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan St. Louis said in The Kansas City Star, ‘Our program has created many dedicated allies in the struggle for racial justice through education. Its participants have then carried the message of equity and justice back to their dinner tables, churches, neighborhoods and workplaces.’

‘The fact that the conversation starts in a segregated space by no means indicates it ends there.’

‘YWCA asks Witnessing Whiteness participants to shift their thinking. Instead of the idea that race affects only others, we challenge them to recognize that race affects white people as well,’ Bracy said.