GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Allegations that an 8th grade white student has been assailing a black classmate with ‘N-bombs’ since September has spurred a discrimination lawsuit against Grand Rapids Public Schools for turning a blind eye to “a racially hostile classroom environment.’’
The boy’s family claims GRPS staff was aware of the racial slurs, “yet failed to prevent its recurrence,’’ according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
The 14-year-old attends Sherwood Park Middle School, 3859 Chamberlain Ave. SE. Since September, the teen says he’s been openly called the ‘N-word’ in the classroom.
His Ann Arbor-based attorney is seeking damages for discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VI and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Slurs occurring “often on a daily basis’’ are upsetting, distract him from schoolwork and “provoke disorder and disrupt the class,’’ according to the lawsuit.
The attorney representing the boy and his mother announced today’s lawsuit in a news release disseminated after the case was filed.
“We cannot expect our children to succeed in learning or in life if we allow them to be demeaned in the very spaces in which they should be nurtured,’’ Ann Arbor attorney Nakisha N. Chaney said in the news release.
“We believe that GRPS administrators knew that this was occurring, that they had an opportunity to correct it and that they failed to do so,’’ the statement reads.
Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesman John Helmholdt said the district hasn’t been served with the lawsuit.
"Our legal counsel will be reviewing the suit and will respond accordingly,'' he said in a statement. "Beyond that, we are not commenting on pending litigation at this time.”
Chaney says the boy, identified in court records as S.W., complained to school staff and to his teacher, providing reports documenting some of the complaints. GRPS also was aware of previous instances in which the offending student used the slur against others, the lawsuit claims.
Sumayyah Waver, the boy’s mother, emailed her son’s teacher about the slurs and asked school officials to address the issue. The Oct. 6 email was forwarded to the principal, assistant principal and a special education supervisor, she claims.
The student accused of making racial rants continues to launch N-bombs without restraint and remains in the classroom, the civil case states.
As of this week, the school’s special education supervisor has not met with Waver to address the issue, according to the lawsuit.
Waver told the school “this has got completely out of control’’ and expressed concern her son would get in trouble for yelling at the offending student to stop, the lawsuit claims.
“S.W.’s harm was amplified by the fact that he was frequently punished for acting out against the slurs,’’ Chaney contends.
His mother has also suffered “humiliation, frustration and anger as a result of GRPS’ indifference and retaliation and her inability to protect her son from daily racial indignity,’’ the lawsuit says.