(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a North Carolina citizens group, whose members include high school students, and are ineligible for a City of Asheville-funded scholarship only because they are not Black. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, WNC Citizens for Equality, Inc., is suing the City of Asheville, City Manager Debra Campbell, and the Asheville City Schools Foundation (ACSF) and its director regarding the city’s establishment of a racially discriminatory scholarship program.
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (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.”
The new lawsuit argues that the scholarship is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a violation of the members of WNC Citizens for Equality’s rights to equal protection under the law and freedom from racial discrimination under the North Carolina Constitution.
The funds provided by the City of Asheville for the City of Asheville Scholarship came from the settlement of an unrelated lawsuit. On April 13, 2021, the Asheville City Council directed City Manager Debra Campbell and City Attorney Brad Branham to effectuate a “donation” of $474,592.56 to ACSF. The City Council stated that it expected the funds would be used “in such a way as to provide the public benefit of advancing racial equity within the community.” A later, smaller donation also was made by the City of Asheville to ACSF for the same purpose.
According to ACSF’s website, the first City of Asheville Scholarship was awarded in May 2021. ACSF will begin accepting applications on November 1, 2021, and through January 31, 2022, for the next City of Asheville Scholarship to be awarded.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the discriminatory scholarship scheme is in violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution.
“It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race and setting up a ‘blacks only’ scholarship is wildly unconstitutional,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This civil rights lawsuit seeks to ensure that no student in Asheville is denied educational scholarship opportunities on account of race.”
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