Buncombe Coun⁠t⁠y School D⁠i⁠s⁠t⁠r⁠i⁠c⁠t⁠ Offers M⁠i⁠nor⁠i⁠⁠t⁠y-Only Men⁠t⁠orsh⁠i⁠p Program ⁠i⁠n Schools

January 31, 2024

Kayla Maloney

CALN Project Manager

Doctor talking to a Patient

WNC Citizens for Equality, a watchdog group that defends constitutional rights to equal protection, filed two civil complaints with federal agencies last week, calling out discrimination prominent in Buncombe County School District’s Medical Mentorship Program. 

This MAHEC Medical Mentoring Program, offered by the Mountain Area Health Education Center, is only open to “underrepresented, marginalized, high school students.” White, nor prevalent Asian groups are even considered for the program; this may remind one of the famous quote, ‘Irish need not apply.’ 

Though MAHEC claims this is “an inclusive program,” it is only that for minority students. According to the USDOJ’s Civil Rights Division, being denied admission to an education program based on race is by definition a civil rights violation. As a nation we have gotten to a place where committing the act of segregation only matters if it is towards minority students. 

After hearing from parents whose children were denied admission to the program because of their race, the Asheville-based watchdog filed their civil complaints. The second complaint, coming from a health and medical perspective, was filed with the US Department of Health and Human Services against MAHEC. The first complaint, which concerned education directly, was filed with the US Department of Education against the Buncombe County School District and the Asheville City School District for offering the internship as a class for credit. 

Each complaint alleges that both the 14th Amendment and Title VI were violated. Being that MAHEC receives federal funding, it is unlawful for them to discriminate in any way on the basis of race. MAHEC can avoid a lawsuit by changing its program’s eligibility requirements upon the release of the expected resolution of the Court. Ruth Smith, the attorney leading the case, hopes that MAHEC will do the right and lawful thing and avoid court by conforming to the Constitution. 

The solution to a history of discrimination is not to turn around and do the same to the other side. Peace and progress come when it happens to no one. Least of all, the solution is not to punish innocent students for the (possible) mistakes of their ancestors. Education must be the place where our children are equally encouraged and helped to succeed, not forgotten in the name of reparation.