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Wednesday, May 2, 2007 - Page updated at 06:41 PM

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Information in this article, originally published April 27, 2007, was later corrected. Due to incorrect information from a Seattle School District spokesman, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that a conference call between the district and the Department of Education about the district using federal funds to send students and staff to a White Privilege Conference would take place on Friday. A date had not been set.

School trip to a White Privilege Conference raises red flag for feds

Seattle Times education reporter

Officials with the federal Department of Education are set to hold a conference call with representatives of the Seattle School District to determine if the district violated the law in sending students to a White Privilege Conference in Colorado this month.

The timing of the district's exchange with the Department of Education hasn't been decided.

A diverse group of 20 students, along with two administrative staff members and at least one teacher, attended the four-day conference, said district spokesman David Tucker.

The conference, sponsored by, among others, the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, serves as an opportunity to "examine and explore difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy and oppression," according to its Web site.

To many, the term "white privilege" is part of a philosophy that white people have advantages over people of color, and that white people are insensitive to other cultures.

To pay for travel, lodging and food for students and staff, the district budgeted $10,000, most of which came from a federal education grant called the Smaller Learning Communities program. That program is intended to help create small academies within high schools.

Through Eric Earling, a regional spokesman, the U.S. Department of Education released a statement on Thursday explaining why it was seeking answers from the district about the trip.

"The school district did not indicate that it intended to send students to a White Privilege conference in documents outlining the plans for how the grant funds would be spent ... If we determine that it is not an allowable expense, there are wide range of administrative actions we can take in response," the statement reads.

Tucker said the district would be found in compliance with federal guidelines after the review.

"We do feel the money was used properly," Tucker said.

The issue has been a hot topic in local conservative political circles, including being the subject of discussion on the right-of-center blog Sound Politics. Earling, a frequent contributor to the blog, said he did not file the complaint, and could not recall whether he had read Sound Politics coverage about the event.

"I don't generally talk about education stuff outside of my work day," he said.

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