Skip to content

Providence school district slapped with civil rights complaint over loan forgiveness only for non-Whites

The Legal Insurrection Foundation (of which criticalrace.org is a project of) filed this complaint. The following report was originally published in Fox News:

______

EXCLUSIVE — A civil rights complaint was filed against the Providence Public School District with the U.S. Department of Education on Monday over a program offering student loan forgiveness to new teachers that is exclusively available to non-White educators.

The complaint claims that Providence Public School District is “engaged in a continuing violation and an ongoing pattern or practice of discrimination” with a student loan forgiveness program for newly and recently hired educators that is only available to non-White applicants, billed as the “Educator of Color Loan Forgiveness Program.”

The Providence Public School District advertises that recipients can have up to $25,000 of college loans forgiven once the teacher completes three consecutive years of teaching in the district. The eligibility requirements indicate recipients must “identify as Asian, Black, Indigenous, Latino, biracial, or multi-racial.”

“Discrimination against non-White applicants is just as unlawful as discrimination against Black or other non-White applicants. There is no good form of racial discrimination,” the complaint states.

The Legal Insurrection Foundation, a Rhode Island-based, nonprofit investigative and research group that fights discrimination in education, filed the complaint – which has been obtained by Fox News Digital – to the Office for Civil Rights of the Dept. of Education.

“PPSD does not even attempt to hide its racially discriminatory practices. To the contrary, PPSD brags about treating white applicants less favorably than non-white applicants. The unlawful discriminatory provisions of the program are advertised on multiple platforms, including on the PPSD’s website and hiring portal. The program is a key part of PPSD’s hiring efforts, and already has processed dozens of applicants on this discriminatory basis,” the complaint states. “The program violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and a variety of state law anti-discrimination statutes. ”

The Providence Public School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cornell Law School professor and Legal Insurrection Foundation president William A. Jacobson wants to get in touch with any teachers who were shut out of, or did not apply, to this loan forgiveness program because of their race or ethnicity. He has also called for the “discriminatory practices be discontinued immediately.”

“The Providence Public School District’s discriminatory loan forgiveness program is one of the most brazen racial preferences we have seen anywhere. They don’t even try to hide it. They seem proud to discriminate. The promotional materials make clear that White educators need not apply for this hiring incentive and employment benefit,” Jacobson told Fox News Digital.

“Racial discrimination in hiring and employment is unlawful and morally reprehensible. The answer for past racial discrimination is equal protection and fairness, not more or different discrimination,” he continued. “The discriminatory loan forgiveness program is a pure racial preference, just check a box and you are eligible or not. It reduces people to the color of their skin or ethnicity, and doesn’t even try to take into account their individual life experiences.”

Jacobson believes “there are legally right and legally wrong ways to achieve diversity” and Providence Public Schools took the wrong route.

“Outreach to expand the pool of applicants and examining the systems to weed out bias to ensure equal treatment are permissible. Conditioning hiring incentives and employment benefits based on which racial or ethnic box is checked is the legally wrong way to do it,” he said. “The Providence Public Schools and the Rhode Island Foundation should have known better than to make hiring incentives and employment benefits only available to certain racial and ethnic groups. Each entity has anti-discrimination policies, yet this program is openly discriminatory.”

According to the complaint, the Rhode Island Foundation, a tax-exempt entity, funds the “Educator of Color Loan Forgiveness Program.”

Jacobson, who is particularly irked because the PPSD receives millions of dollars in federal funding, called for the district to make the program retroactively available to people hired since the program started that were excluded from consideration on the basis of race or ethnicity.

“That will not compensate people who never applied because of the discriminatory provisions, but it would be a good start. If that means the Providence schools and Rhode Island Foundation have to put forth additional funding, it’s the least they could do,” Jacobson said.

PPSD is the largest public school district in Rhode Island, and serves roughly 24,000 students across 41 schools, according to the complaint.

“Because PPSD receives federal funding, [Office of Civil Rights] had the power and obligation to make PPSD stop and to impose whatever remedial relief is necessary,” the complaint states.

The Legal Insurrection Foundation also publishes the Legal Insurrection website.

Fox News’ Nikolas Lanum contributed to this report. 

©2022 Critical Race Training in Education. All rights reserved.