A Minnesota school district allowed a homecoming event called "Wigger Day," during which students wore clothes and behaved in a manner that "from their perspective, mimicked black culture," according to a federal class action lawsuit filed against the district on Friday.
The suit alleges that despite student council voting on a "tropical theme" for homecoming in 2009, a group of approximately 60 students from the predominantly white school instead attended the event dressed for "Wigger Wednesday" in "oversized sports jerseys, low-slung pants, baseball hats cocked to the side and 'doo rags.'"
"Wigger is a pejorative slang term for a white person who emulates the mannerisms, language and fashions associated with African-American culture," the complaint explains.
Students also referred to the activity as "Wangsta Day" -- meaning "white gangsta" or "Red Winger gangsta" -- and created a Facebook group advocating for the event. (Warning: This Facebook link contains offensive language.)
The plaintiff, former Red Wing High School student Quera Pruitt, an African American, claims that the school's lack of intervention caused her "severe emotional distress including depression, loss of sleep, stress, crying, humiliation, anxiety, and shame." Pruitt filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on behalf of an unnamed class of "all students who experienced discrimination as a result of Wigger Day." The complaint states the class could include more than 40 people.
Pruitt's attorney, Joshua Williams, says her family hoped the incident would be addressed following "Wigger Day" 2008. While it was never an officially-sanctioned school event, the family discovered "Wigger Wednesday" was something of a tradition.
After the 2009 incident, "[Pruitt's] mom came up to the school, attempted to reach out to the school board, the superintendent, and the principal, but Red Wing's response was essentially to sweep this under the rug and act like it didn't happen," Williams told The Huffington Post.
According to Williams, Pruitt became depressed, quit the cheerleading squad, left student council, skipped her senior prom and even considered dropping out of school.
Pruitt also declined to participate in the school's Martin Luther King Day ceremonies, considering the memorial a "farce." She graduated in 2010 and moved back to Little Rock, Ark.
Williams added that the school district has acknowledged that "Wigger Day" took place in 2007 and 2008, but neglected to prevent the event from happening in 2009.
Red Wing principal Beth Borgen and school district superintendent Karsten Anderson, both defendants in the suit, say the school is committed to creating a learning environment free from discrimination.
According to a 2009 article on KARE-11, students participating in "Wigger Day" that year were immediately sent to change their clothes, but no additional punishment followed.
Williams, who is seeking $75,000 in damages for his client, did not know whether "Wigger Day" took place again in 2010.
A statement from Anderson obtained by HuffPost says the district "denies the allegations that it has created a racially hostile environment and looks forward to meeting these allegations in court."
Williams says that position is "symptomatic of Red Wing's response to 'Wigger Day' from the onset."
"The students shouldn't have felt empowered to hold 'Wigger Day' in 2009," Williams said. "These students were not disciplined, they were not counseled and they were not punished. This could have been a teachable moment."
READ the complaint: