The ACLU of North Carolina and ACORN, a community group, have filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education over segregated disciplinary assemblies conducted for seventh-grade students at Raleigh’s Dillard Drive Middle School in December. The assemblies, one for all Hispanic students, the other for all black students, were held following a clash between two girls, one black, one Hispanic. Students were given a tongue-lashing about their performance and reminded of Wake’s zero-tolerance policies on fighting and gang activities. White, non-Hispanic students weren’t called to either assembly.

The ACLU, ACORN and some parents they represent want Dillard Drive Principal Teresa Abron or the Wake school system to say the segregated sessions were a mistake. Abron, in a press conference the day after, said she’d do the same thing again in the same circumstances. She didn’t return our call asking for comment on the ACLU’s action. Wake school officials supported Abron and rebuffed the complaints.

“[The] parents are not asking for much,” said Rebecca Headen, ACLU-NC Racial Justice Project coordinator, “just an acknowledgement that the decision to target their children for discipline based on race and ethnicity was made in error, and assurance that it won’t happen again.”

Headen said the Department of Education’s civil rights unit has 30 days to decide whether there are grounds for an investigation. The question would be whether the Wake schools, which receive federal funds, violated students’ rights to non-discriminatory treatment. “I think the violation is pretty clear,” Headen said.

For more on this issue, see “Segregated assembly sparks protest” and “Wake middle school segregates assemblies.”