Three black students have filed a lawsuit against Minnesota's Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District claiming school officials did nothing to address racial harassment and discrimination.
The complaint says that school officials allowed white classmates to use racial slurs against the plaintiffs repeatedly over four years. The district is composed of mostly white students. (Read the full document below.)
The plaintiffs' peers would use slurs like the n-word, and when the mother reported the conduct to the school principal, he "literally laughed in her face," according to the complaint. The document also states that the plaintiffs were suspended for getting into fights with white students, while the white students were not disciplined for the incidents.
Minneapolis attorney Joshua Williams is representing the family.
"At every turn, the school just turned a blind eye to those complaints and said, 'We don't have to deal with it,'" Williams told Minnesota Public Radio. "The laws that are in place say they had a duty to deal with it and try to address it and try to remediate it, and that's not what happened here."
The complaint points to a 2003 court ruling that declared it illegal for school authorities to "ignore or reject one's complaints" of being "referred to by one's peers by the most noxious racial epithet in the contemporary American lexicon, being shamed and humiliated on the basis of one's race."
During a Martin Luther King, Jr. day assembly at the school, a plaintiff heard a student say, "I don't want to be here. This is for n---ers." But when the plaintiff went to report the incident, a school official said she "shouldn't let people get to you," according tot he complaint.
Following an investigation of the claims, Superintendent Tony Simons told KAAL-TV that the district did not find evidence supporting the accusations.
"The allegations of civil rights violations are false," Simons told the station. "We will stand up for what we've done and take our case to court."
Insurance carriers for the district have retained two law firms to defend the case, KTTC reports.
The family is seeking an unspecified amount for injuries suffered, expenses incurred in litigation and medical or health claims.
Williams also represented a family in a similar discrimination lawsuit in Minnesota last year.
Quera Pruitt, a black student, sued the Red Wing School District for Red Wing High School's lack of intervention in a homecoming event called "Wigger Day," during which students wore clothes and behaved in a way that "mimicked black culture."
Wigger is a pejorative slang term for a white person who emulates the mannerisms, language and fashions associated with African-American culture," according to the complaint. The student said the school's failure to act against the event caused her "severe emotional distress including depression, loss of sleep, stress, crying, humiliation, anxiety, and shame."
The case was settled earlier this month for $90,000.