School Administrators Failed to Intervene and Retaliated Against Student in Racial Bullying Case, Say Civil Rights Lawyers

For immediate release
September 26, 2017

CHICAGO - In a lawsuit filed yesterday with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois a Black family represented by Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Schiff Hardin LLP is alleging that school administrators acted with deliberate indifference to racial harassment and deprived their daughter of her right to an education. 
 
According to the complaint, in the fall of 2015 a Black female student in 7thgrade at Prairie Central Junior High School began receiving threats of violence and repeated harassment and tormenting from other students who routinely used highly offensive racial slurs. The student population at Prairie Central Junior High is about one percent Black and 90 percent White, and the bullying victim was the only Black student in her grade. Even though district employees witnessed these events on the school premises, including in the lunchroom and on the bus, and even though the family had reported it multiple times to school officials, no appropriate action was taken to protect the child from the abusive behavior or address the offending students about the racial harassment. 
 
Jessica Schneider, Staff Attorney for the Education Equity Project at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, said:
 
“Students should be safe at school. It’s one thing when young people use racist language and bullying to torment others. But when school officials who are charged with their students’ safety and well-being choose to tolerate this behavior and even to retaliate against those who report abuse, you have a different situation entirely.”
 
Following specific threats that were reported to school officials, the Black student was attacked by two students while switching buses after school.  She was struck in the face and kicked in the head while the other students yelled at her telling her to “go back where you came from” and that “Black people don’t belong” here. She suffered both mentally and physically from the attack. Even after the attack, the district failed to take any reasonable corrective or preventative measures or offer counseling and support to the student.
 
Attorneys for the student are alleging violations of both state and federal civil rights laws designed to protect people from race discrimination and guarantee equal protection of the law. The student and her mother are seeking compensatory and punitive damages to compensate the student for her physical and mental suffering and make sure other Black students in the district do not face the same discrimination and harassment she did.