(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced Wednesday that the City of Asheville, North Carolina, settled a Judicial Watch federal civil rights lawsuit, after agreeing to remove all racially discriminatory provisions in a City-funded scholarship program. Additionally, the city also agreed to remove racially discriminatory eligibility provisions in a related program that provides grants to educators. The City Council approved the settlement on January 11.
In October, 2021, Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on behalf of a North Carolina citizens group, WNC Citizens for Equality, Inc., whose members include high school students who were ineligible for a scholarship program only because they are not Black (WNC Citizens for Equality, Inc., v. City of Asheville et al. (No. 1:21-cv-00310)).
On May 5, 2021, the City of Asheville entered into an agreement with Asheville City Schools Foundation to establish and administer the City of Asheville Scholarship Fund. According to the agreement, the City of Asheville Scholarship is “awarded in perpetuity to Black high school students within Asheville City Schools, with special consideration given for Black students pursuing a career in education.” (In July 2020, Ashville’s City Council unanimously approved what it called a “reparations initiative,” that provided, “funding to programs geared toward increasing homeownership and business and career opportunities for Black residents.”)
To settle the civil rights lawsuit, on January 11, 2022, Asheville’s City Council approved a resolution that removes the racial criteria for the scholarship:
[T]he scholarship will give preference to applicants whose household members, including parents and/or guardians have a high school education or less, these applicants representing “first generation” college students.
The City Council also removed racially discriminatory language for a scholarship program for educators and staff of Asheville City Schools.
The scholarship agreements were also amended to prohibit discrimination based on race and other categories.
“Our clients, a group of Asheville residents, including high school students, courageously challenged this blatantly discriminatory and illegal scholarship program in federal court. Thankfully, the City of Asheville did the right thing in quickly ending these indefensible race-based scholarship programs,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This federal lawsuit and the resulting remarkable settlement should serve as a wakeup call to those activists and allied politicians pushing the extremist leftist agenda to segregate and discriminate based on race.”
The Legal Insurrection Foundation partnered with Judicial Watch in the lawsuit.