The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Rev. Jarrett Maupin informing him that Office of Civil Rights plans to open an investigation into his complaint that the Queen Creek School system may have created a hostile environment when they allowed students to have a “Redneck Day” celebration.
The OCR also advised Maupin, a former Phoenix mayoral candidate, who was sentenced in 2009 to five years probation and 75 hours of community service for making a false report to the FBI, that they would investigate his claim of “discrimination related to ethnic studies programs at other school districts in Arizona and the impact of Arizona revised statutes.”
Maupin declared the decision by the OCR “a moral victory.”
According to the OCR’s letter, Maupin filed a complaint “alleging the Queen Creek Unified School District discriminated on the basis of race.” They noted that Maupin specifically alleged that the district “discriminated by creating a racially hostile environment at the “Redneck Day” event on May 1, 2013 at Queen Creek High School and by failing to take action to correct the racially hostile environment.”
The OCR determined that they had the authority to investigate the allegation but noted that the “display of the Confederate flag concerns rights protected by the First Amendment of United States Constitution. Therefore the scope of the OCR investigation will be limited to whether a racially hostile environment was created due to language and actions that were not protected by the First Amendment.”
The OCR advised Maupin that if their investigation establishes that there has been a violation of law they will attempt to negotiate a remedy.
“In your complaint and during our conversations, you also discussed potential related to ethnic studies programs at other school districts in Arizona and the impact of Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 15-112,” Angela Martinez-Gonzales, Supervisory Attorney General wrote Maupin. “As we discussed, we are still waiting to hear from you about additional information regarding those allegations. Because your ethnic studies allegations are separate from the allegations identified at the beginning of this letter and do not involve the Queen Creek Unified School District, they will be addressed separately and will be assigned a different case number once OCR receives the additional information we discussed with you. Thus, at this time, OCR is only proceeding with the investigation of the racially hostile environment allegation identified in the beginning of this letter.”
Recently, federal Judge Wallace Tashima found the Arizona law, to which Maupin objects, constitutional. The law prohibits the promotion of resentment against others based on the color of their skin or ethnicity and the segregation of students based on the color of their skin or ethnicity.
Maupin claimed that community was “outraged over the controversial celebration,” and he and other leaders petitioned U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to intercede on behalf of black and white students “negatively impacted by the racially-insensitive theme.” One of the Queen Creek students wore a Confederate flag at school during the event last spring.
The DOE will “determine the remedy, including moderating conversations between school administrators and civil rights community leaders to shape new policy and racism prevention measures,” Maupin said.
According to one representative in the Tucson Unified School District desegregation case, which involves the “ethnic studies” classes to which Maupin refers, the African American plaintiffs are planning to send a letter next week to the federal judge overseeing case asking that the “ethnic studies’ classes ordered by the court be eliminated because they actually serve to resegregate students.