A national parents group has filed a federal complaint against Wellesley Public Schools for alleged racial segregation after the district banned white students from attending a virtual event on hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Parents Defending Education has asked the U.S. Department of Education to investigate whether the district violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The federal law prohibits programs that receive federal funds from discriminating against any person “on the ground of race, color, or national origin.”

The complaint was filed last week with the department’s Office for Civil Rights. In March, the Wellesley schools hosted a Zoom session described as a “Healing Space for Asian and Asian-American students” and other students of color in grades six through twelve.

Attached to the complaint was a screenshot of the invitation, which stated: “*Note: This is a safe space for our Asian/Asian-American and Students of Color, *not* for students who identify only as White.”

The invitation was sent just after the March 16 shootings at Atlanta spas that left eight dead, including six Asian women.

“If you identify as White, and need help to process recent events, please know I’m here for you as well as your guidance counselors,” the invitation read. “If you need to know why this is not for White students, please ask me!”

Asra Nomani, the vice president for strategy and investigations at Parents Defending Education, said that as a person of color, it’s “deeply offensive” that anyone would be excluded from a session intended to promote healing based on the color of their skin.

“What's wrong about the invitation is that you can't exclude anyone based on the color of their skin,” said Nomani, who was born in India. “As a society, we long ago rejected the idea that anybody should be judged based on the color of their skin. You can't use the very sacred idea of healing space to then do this really base idea of segregation.”

On its website, Parents Defending Education says it opposes curriculum that places students in “divisive identity groups” based on their race, ethnicity, religion and gender. The group has filed civil rights complaints against school districts across the country.

Days after the invitation was sent out, Wellesley school officials sent another email defending the use of “affinity spaces.”

“The goal was to provide a safe space in which students and staff could reflect, share, and be supported as members of our school district,” the email said. “At the same time, we can also understand the discomfort that some members of our community have shared when learning of a practice that they perceive to be discriminatory. It’s important to note that affinity spaces are not discriminatory.”

The email said such spaces are “long-term, evidence-based district strategy that amplifies student and faculty voices on various issues.”

Nomani said the term “affinity groups” has become a new “buzzword” and what she called an excuse for segregation.

“It is so unacceptable in today's society. You can't use excuses like healing spaces and affinity circles to cover up something that is ultimately illegal, unjust and immoral,” she said. “We have to all be together as a community through good times and bad times, and the idea that there's any justifiable excuse for segregation is not just in our society.”

Wellesley Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment.