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National parent group files federal complaint accusing Milton Public Schools of discrimination

Milton High SchoolErin Clark/Globe Staff

A national parent group has filed a federal civil rights complaint against Milton Public Schools, accusing the district of discrimination for using a math program aimed at supporting Black and Latino students.

The Washington, D.C.-based Parents Defending Education, which says it “opposes racial discrimination and political indoctrination in America’s schools,” filed the complaint Tuesday with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and argued the district is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by using the program.

“We ask that the Department promptly investigate the allegations in this complaint, act swiftly to remedy unlawful policies and practices, and order appropriate relief,” said Caroline Moore, the vice president of Parents Defending Education, in the complaint.


At the center of the controversy is the “The Calculus Project,” which has been used in the district since the 2014-15 academic year. The program offers tutoring and study groups to students of color and low-income students in an effort to boost the number of such students who complete AP Calculus in high school. The complaint alleges the district is using discriminatory practices by not offering the additional help to all students.

Schools are on the front lines of increasingly acrimonious culture wars, being targeted for how they teach race, sex, and gender, or what books they stock in their libraries.

Parents Defending Education calls on local parents to report via their website any issue happening in schools that “seems wrong” to them. Its website flags ethnic studies as a subject that “seeks to tear people apart and paints a hideous picture of the United States” and is “critical race theory (CRT) by another name.” The group has logged 50 “incidents” in which they say Massachusetts schools are so-called indoctrinating students.


“This new educational mission is not only at war with basic American values, but also with childhood,” the organization’s website states. “Couched in vague slogans about ‘social justice,’ the new curriculum divides our children into ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ groups.”

The organization did not respond to requests for comment.

The group’s latest Massachusetts complaint includes an e-mail exchange between a Milton parent and the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and human resources. The parent in the exchange, while acknowledging the purpose of the program, questioned why it is not available to all students.

“It seems discriminatory if someone who is non African American/Black or LatinX wishes to attend the class but get’s turned away due to race — this is wrong,” the parent said in the e-mail. “I read the Calculus Project and I understand the goal which is great, BUT [sic] I feel this may open MPS to a suit if a child in MPS wants to take this class and is turned away due to their race… This isn’t the Milton I know.”

The district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and human resources explained the intent of the program is to increase enrollment of Black and Latino students in high-level math courses at Milton High School. The administrator added that “there are many supports and programs for all students to achieve at high levels.”

Milton Public Schools did not respond to requests for comment.

Adrian Mims, the founder and chief executive of “The Calculus Project,” said in an e-mail on Friday the program has supported more than 10,000 students from all backgrounds since 2009.


“While our mission is to help increase the representation and success of students of color and low-income students, any student between grades 8 and 12 can apply to participate... including Milton Public Schools,” Mims said.

This is the second time Milton has come under fire by the group. Last June, the group criticized the district for teaching a lesson about the country’s first openly gay politician, Harvey Milk, and the importance of the letters LGBTQ.

Last October, Parents Defending Education also filed a federal civil rights complaint against Newton North High School that alleged a student-led theater production broke the law by limiting auditions to people of color. The organization also sued Wellesley Public Schools in 2021, alleging the district violated white students’ civil rights when Wellesley High School hosted a forum for students of color to discuss racism.

Adria Watson can be reached at Follow her @adriarwatson.