The parents of several Black and biracial students are suing the operator of a Minnesota charter school on behalf of their children, alleging that the school failed to prevent “racist, unfair, hurtful and at times dangerous interactions” at the hands of both students and staff.
The students – all minors and unnamed in the suit – are all current or former students at one of two campuses run by Duluth Edison Charter Schools, or DECS.
The suit alleges that the school disproportionately disciplines Black students, who make up less than 3% of the student body, often disciplining only them in any altercations with White students. The suit further alleges that years of complaints about the use of racial slurs and taunting by White students went unaddressed.
An attorney for the school cited two years of discovery in the court case, saying there was little evidence to support the allegations.
Among the claims in the suit, one of the plaintiffs, a former student, said that he wanted to kill himself because he was made to feel different and that the students and staff at DECS did not like Black people. The boy was in the first grade at the time.
The same boy alleged multiple instances of disproportionate discipline, including one instance in which a teacher allegedly grabbed his face during an argument with a White student over a card the boy had made for his mom.
“As time went on it was apparent how much bias was prevalent at the school and the absolute disregard for it,” Kali Proctor, the boy’s mother and a named plaintiff in the suit, said in a prepared statement issued to CNN by her attorney.
“I had a tremendous amount of sadness that at only six years old, he faced the harsh reality that we live in a world that people continue to treat others differently based on the color of their skin,” Proctor, who is White, said in the same statement. “He would come home crying and pleading that he would have been born white like me.”
Another student alleges that a teacher at the school cut a dreadlock from the student’s head without his permission after his glasses became stuck on his head. The teacher allegedly responded that she “only cut the nappy strands.”
The same student also alleges being told by a separate teacher “That’s what little Black kids do, they whine,” after asking to speak with the school’s African-American cultural liaison.
‘A long history of promoting racial equality,’ attorney says
Tim Sullivan, an attorney for the school, told CNN that there was little evidence behind the allegations.
“Extensive discovery has been conducted over the course of nearly two years, and the facts gathered demonstrate that there is neither a factual nor legal basis to support the claims asserted against my client,” he said.
In a motion for summary judgment filed in August, the school contends it has a “long history of promoting racial equity,” and responds directly to a number of the allegations.
In that same filing, the school says that an internal investigation determined that the teacher in question had not grabbed Proctor’s son’s face.
Further, the school claims that in the case of the other student’s stuck glasses, the teacher in question said she might need to cut the glasses out, and was told that was “fine.”