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Education Dept. curbs decision on race-based ‘affinity groups’

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Education Dept. curbs decision on race-based 'affinity groups'

The US Department of Education suspended a decision that found racial “affinity groups” discriminated against students and staff, The Post has learned.

The goal of the programs — used by the New York City public school system and other school districts — is to separate students and staff by racial groups in order to help address discrimination and “white privilege.”

But the practice of separating schools into racial groups is discriminatory, a determination obtained by the Post found.

The findings — reached during the waning days of former President Trump’s time in office in early January — were in response to a complaint about a Chicago-area school district’s “racial equity” training programs and lesson plans:

Sources said the findings, if implemented, could apply to New York City and other school districts.

The Post last year exclusively reported about city early childhood teachers being asked to be segregated into discussion groups based on skin color, race and ethnicity following the George Floyd killing at the hands of Minneapolis police and the violent protests that followed.

Critics ripped the initiative for perpetuating racial stereotypes.

One Manhattan principal even recently asked parents to reflect on their “whiteness” to address “white supremacy”, “white privilege” and discrimination.

The 18-page “letter of finding” — drafted by federal DOE Office of Civil Rights enforcement director Carol Ashley — was triggered by a complaint filed by a former NYC arts teacher who now works in the Evanston-Skokie, Illinois. school district.

The DOE findings said the Evanston- Skokie School District violated civil rights law by:

— Separating administrators in a professional development training program in August, 2019 into two groups based on race — white and non-white.

— Offering various “racially exclusive affinity groups” that separated students, parents and community members by race.

— Implementing a disciplinary policy that included “explicit direction” to staffers to consider a student’s race when meting out discipline.

— Carried out a “Colorism Privilege Walk” that separated seventh and eight grade students into different groups based on race.

“If you are white take 2 steps forward. If you’re a person of color with dark skin, take 2 steps back. If you’re black, take 2 steps back,” the privilege walk exercise said..

The goal was for white students students to “learn more about white privilege, internalized dominance, microaggressions and how to act as an ally for students of color,” the lesson plan said.

But Ashely of the DOE concluded the school district “engaged in intentional race discrimination by coordinating and conducting racially exclusive affinity groups, which resulted in the separation of participants in district programs based on race in violation of the Title 6 regulation.”

She said “deliberately” segregating students and employees by race reduced them “to a set of racial stereotype.”

“These materials would have led students to be treated differently based on their race, depriving them of a class free from racial recrimination and hostility. Such treatment has no place in federally-funded programs or activities, nor is it protected by the First Amendment,” Ashley said.

She continued, “The District’s policy to impose racial discrimination in discipline has no part in federally funded education programs or activities,” Ashley said.

The teacher-complainant, who wished to remain anonymous, said she received a call from Ashley on January 6, who told her she issued a letter of finding that the Evanston-Skokie school district racial racial affinity group programs violated federal civil rights law.

But she was told she could not get a copy of the letter until the DOE reached a final compliance resolution with the school district within 90 days.

But on January 22 the teacher received a courtesy phone call from Ashley again, informing her that her case was being suspended due to President Biden’s new executive orders on equity to aid racial minorities and LGBT citizens. Biden has taken office just two days before.

The head of the Evanston-Skokie school district confirmed that the Biden order put the discrimination case on ice.

“I do not have specific comments for you because the School District has not received any final decision from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). Last month, the proceedings were suspended by OCR pending its reconsideration of the case in light of the Executive Orders on racial equity issued by President Biden,” said Evanston-Skokie Supt. Devon Horton said in a statement to The Post.

“At this time, there is no final decision in place with which the School District can comply or to reject,” Horton said..

A US Dept. of Ed spokesman, in a statement said, “OCR [Office of Civil Rights] does not comment on specific facts and circumstances related to open cases. OCR can confirm, however, that on Nov. 25, 2019, it previously opened an investigation of a complaint on the basis of race against the Evanston/Skokie School District (IL) for possible violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

The spokesman added, “The Biden-Harris Administration has put equity at the heart of its agenda and has committed to taking bold action to fight racism and discrimination, as described in the executive orders on Advancing Racial Equity and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. This commitment relates directly to OCR’s mission of ensuring nondiscriminatory access to education for all students through the vigorous enforcement of the civil rights laws.”

The teacher-complainant said of the suspension of recommended actions in her discrimination case, “I am concerned with staff and student safety due to the Department of Education Title VI violation findings.”

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Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw undergoes emergency eye surgery

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Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw undergoes emergency eye surgery

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former NAVY SEAL who lost his right eye in Afghanistan, announced Saturday that he underwent surgery this week for a problem in his other eye — and will be ” effectively blind for about a month.”

Crenshaw, 37, a Republican from Houston, tweeted a statement saying that a few days ago he had “noticed some dark, blurry spots” in his vision, “which seemed out of the ordinary.”

He sought medical attention Thursday and an eye doctor told him the retina in his left eye was detaching.

“This is a terrifying prognosis for someone with one eye, and the nature of the injuries I sustained in Afghanistan,” wrote Crenshaw, who served in the US Navy from 2006-2016 and retired as a lieutenant commander.

He said the 2012 IED blast in Helmand Province left him with “half a good eye,” and that there was always a possibility that the effects of the damage would resurface.

“It appears that is exactly what has happened,” he said.

The blast injuries, which happened during Crenshaw’s third deployment, initially caused total blindness, but he gained sight in his remaining eye and went on to do two more tours of duty.

He had emergency surgery Friday at the VA Medical Center in Houston.

“During the surgery they put a gas bubble in my eye, which acts as a bandage for my retina,” he said. “This means I have to be face-down for the next week or so, unable to see anything.”

Crenshaw said he would likely be off social media, except for updates on his health as he recovered in his Houston home with his wife, Tara.

“I have gotten through worse before, and I will get through this,” Crenshaw wrote.

Still, he added: “A few prayers that my vision will get back to normal and that I will make a full recovery wouldn’t hurt, though, and would be much appreciated.”

Crenshaw won a second term in Congress in November, beating Democratic challenger Sima Ladjevardian.

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Possible SpaceX debris washes ashore in Oregon

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Possible SpaceX debris washes ashore in Oregon

It’s an unidentified floating object.

Officials in Oregon are trying to determine if debris that washed ashore Friday afternoon belonged to a SpaceX rocket.

More than 100 SpaceX rockets have been shot into orbit since 2010.

The alleged space junk, a large black cylindrical tube, washed up along Alsea Bay in Lincoln County and was reported to local police shortly thereafter, according to a report from The Oregonian.

Authorities who contacted SpaceX said the object could be a “composite overwrapped pressure vessel,” which are commonly found in spacecraft.

The object was deemed non-hazardous and transported to an unidentified location for further study.

Reps for SpaceX did not immediately respond to request for comment from The Post.

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t enforce coronavirus-related restrictions that have limited home-based religious worship including Bible studies and prayer meetings.

The order from the court late Friday is the latest in a recent string of cases in which the high court has barred officials from enforcing some coronavirus-related restrictions applying to religious gatherings.

Five conservative justices agreed that California restrictions that apply to in-home religious gatherings should be lifted for now, while the court’s three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts would not have done so.

California has already, however, announced significant changes loosening restrictions on gatherings that go into effect April 15. The changes come after infection rates have gone down in the state.

The case before the justices involved California rules that in most of the state limit indoor social gatherings to no more than three households. Attendees are required to wear masks and physically distance from one another. Different restrictions apply to places including schools, grocery stores and churches.

“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise,” allowing hair salons, retail stores, and movie theaters, among other places, “to bring together more than three households at a time,” the unsigned order from the court said. A lower court “did not conclude that those activities pose a lesser risk of transmission than applicants’ proposed religious exercise at home,” it said. 

The court acknowledged that California’s policy on gatherings will change next week but said the restrictions remain in place until then and that “officials with a track record of ‘moving the goalposts’ retain authority to reinstate those heightened restrictions at any time.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent for herself and her liberal colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that the court’s majority was hurting state officials’ ability to address a public health emergency.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike. California need not … treat at-home religious gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons,” she wrote. She added that “the law does not require that the State equally treat apples and watermelons.”

The case before the justices involved two residents of Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area, who want to host small, in-person Bible study sessions in their homes. California had defended its policy of restricting social gatherings as “entirely neutral.”

The court has dealt with a string of cases in which religious groups have challenged coronavirus restrictions impacting worship services. While early in the pandemic the court sided with state officials over the objection of religious groups, that changed following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

In November, the high court barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. And in February, the high court told California that it can’t bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, though it let stand for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.

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