Racially Discriminatory Illinois Public High School Program Challenged By Equal Protection Project

2024-04-19 18:00:21

The Equal Protection Project (EPP) (EqualProtect.org) of the Legal Insurrection Foundation has challenged numerous racially discriminatory programs done in the name of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This discrimination comes in various ways, but the overarching theme is to exclude or diminish some people and promote others, based on race, color, or ethnicity. We have filed over two dozen complaints and legal actions in the year since launch in February 2023, with at least 10 schools withdrawing or modifying the discriminatory programs.

Almost all of our actions have addressed discrimination in higher education. In our latest action, however, we have filed a Civil Rights Complaint (full embed at bottom of post) with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education the Illinois Mathematics and ScienceAcademy regarding a program that discriminates in favor of blacks and Latinos (“Latinx”), and against all others.

From the introduction to the Complaint:

We bring this civil rights complaint against the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy for creating, supporting and promoting a summer immersion program – called the PROMISE-Summer Enrichment in Academics in Mathematics and Science program – for Illinois students between their 8th and 9th grade years that engages in invidious discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin. As detailed and documented below, students who identify as black, African American or Latinx are universally eligible for the Summer 2024 PROMISE-SEAMS Program. Applicants who fall outside of those racial categories, however, are automatically ineligible for the program unless they can demonstrate that they meet the guidelines for being “rural” or of “low-socioeconomic status.”

We detailed the nature of IMSA and the program at issue:

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (“IMSA”) is an executive branch agency of the State of Illinois1 that operates a residential public high school – which it describes on its website as “a teaching and learning laboratory” – in Aurora, Illinois for “academically talented students in the 10th through 12th grades.2 [image omitted]


According to IMSA’s website, the PROMISE Program “is designed to support Black or African American students, Latinx students,” students from low-income households and students from rural Illinois counties, and aims to “address[ ] the unique challenges of culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse … students who have an interest in STEM education by providing academic enrichment programming at low to no cost.” 7 [image omitted]

The PROMISE Program consists of three separate, grade-based experiences: (1) the “Leading Students 2 Success” program, for students enrolled in the 7th and 8th grade; (2) the “Summer Enrichment in Academics in Mathematics and Science” program, a 10-day summer residential program for students who successfully completed 8th grade; and (3) the “Early Involvement Program,” for students enrolled in the 9th grade.8


According to an informational webpage about the 2024 Summer PROMISE-SEAMS Program on IMSA’s website, applicants must be Illinois students who demonstrate high academic achievement. Further, they must be “culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse” (“CLED”) – meaning they must either “identif[y] as Black or African American and/or Latinx,” “reside[ ] in an official rural Illinois county,” or “qualif[y] for National School Lunch Program.”12 [image omitted]

While the general PROMISE Program FAQ webpage states that “[t]he application is open to all students,” it provides that “the priority is to serve students who meet one of the [CLED] markers.”14 Thus, even if all students could apply to the program, the Summer 2024 PROMISE-SEAMS Program’s informational and application webpages referenced above make clear that only students who “identif[y] as Black or African American and/or Latinx,” “reside[ ] in an official rural Illinois county,” or “qualif[y] for National School Lunch Program” are eligible to participate in it.

An August 2023 guidance issued by OCR provides that “[i]n determining whether an opportunity to participate is open to all students, OCR may consider, for example, whether advertisements or other communications would lead a reasonable student, or a parent or guardian, to understand that all students are welcome to participate.”15 Here, any reasonable person would understand that all students are not welcome to participate in the 2024 Summer PROMISE-SEAMS Program.

After providing legal analysis as to why having different admissions standards to the program for different races and ethnicities violates the law, we concluded:

Because IMSA’s blatant racial preference system for the Summer 2024 PROMISE-SEAMS Program is presumptively invalid, and since there is no compelling government justification for such invidious discrimination, IMSA’s use of racial preferences violates state and federal civil rights statutes and constitutional equal protection guarantees.


Accordingly, we respectfully ask the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to impose remedial relief as the law permits for the benefit of those who have been illegally excluded from IMSA’s Summer 2024 PROMISE-SEAMS Program based on racially discriminatory criteria, and to ensure that all ongoing and future programming through that state agency and school comport with federal civil rights laws.

IMSA and the PROMISE-SEAMS program have a worthy educational objective of advancing mathematics and science education, but that objective is marred by racially discriminatory eligibility requirements. Racial discrimination does not advance the study of mathematics and science. The PROMISE-SEAMS program should be open to students equally without regard to race or ethnicity, as required by federal and state law. All students in Illinois are entitled to the equal protection of the laws.

IMSA itself has stringent nondiscrimination policies which prohibit, among other things, discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin “in the provision of programs, activities, services, or benefits.” IMSA. should live up to its own rules. IMSA should reopen the application period and provide viable pathways for students excluded on the basis of race or ethnicity to apply.

EPP is in a major expansion mode, and we expect to broaden our challenges to racially discriminatory programs deeper into K-12.  But we need your help. We are a small organization going up against powerful and wealthy government and private institutions devoted to DEI discrimination. Donations are greatly needed and appreciated.



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