Madison West High School

Madison West High School in Madison, Wisc.  

(The Center Square) – Madison schools are looking to have a conversation about race. 

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on Thursday sent a letter to the Madison Metropolitan School District asking where the idea for racially separated Zoom meetings on race came from.

"West High School in the past few weeks has hosted 'virtual discussion spaces' for students and staff to 'process the pain our community is feeling at this present moment' and 'work towards being an anti-racist school community,'" the letter stated.

"While an honest conversation about racial issues can be a laudable goal, West High School seems to be going about it in an improper – and illegal – way. WILL was surprised to learn that the school administration apparently decided the best way to 'do this work' would be to conduct these discussions in racially-segregated groups," the letter continued.

WILL President Rick Esenberg said Madison schools hosted one meeting for white students and another separate meeting for students of color. 

Esenberg said that's segregation. 

“It is head-spinning that a public school in Wisconsin would adopt racial segregation as a tool to confront racism in the twenty-first century. It is an affront to the hard-fought progress our country has made," Esenberg said. 

The letter explained further: "By associating racial segregation with 'emotional safety and security,' the school communicated to students and families that racial integration somehow detracts from 'emotional safety and security.' That is the polar opposite of the message that should be communicated right now," the letter stated.

"West’s broad classification of all students into 'white students' and 'students of color' undoubtedly alienated many students who do not fit neatly into these racial categories. If the goal is for students of different races and ethnicities to 'build empathy and community for each other' and to “make individual and collective connections,” racial segregation is the worst possible model; only an integrated discussion would allow students to hear and learn from each other," Esenberg wrote.

Esenberg and WILL said separating the meeting by race could very likely violate federal law. He cited Title VI of the Civil Rights Act that declares students cannot be excluded from education opportunities or activities based on race, color or national origin.