Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRF) received a complaint alleging discrimination based on race, which was filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) last spring.
The complaint was made in regards to the particular affinity group used during a Black Lives Matter assembly held at OPRF on Feb. 27, 2015. This assembly gathered 350 students and staff who identify as black to listen to a panel discussion and engage in group discussion. However, according to a March 2015 Chicago Tribune article, many white parents reported that their students were turned away when they tried to attend the Black Lives Matter event.
School Principal Nathaniel Rouse, who organized the event and is black, said the decision to allow only black students was based on an idea known as affinity grouping. Racial affinity groups often are used in learning communities to help facilitate positive identity exploration and to provide people with similar experiences a space in which they are able to express themselves fully and safely.
This complaint brought into question the use of affinity groups within the entire district. The OCR has ruled that voluntary affinity groups are permissible but cannot be exclusive.
The Board of Education has approved a resolution agreement in response to this complaint to ensure non-discrimination policies are upheld. In signing this resolution, the district has agreed to ensure all programs and activities are open to students, parents and other individuals regardless of race, color or national origin. The district will also review policies, procedures, trainings and related materials.