Students allege Zumbrota-Mazeppa district failed to address racial harassment, discriminationby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Three Zumbrota-Mazeppa students claim in a lawsuit filed in federal court that the school district and four employees failed to address racial harassment and discrimination.
The three black female students and their mother claim that in the mostly white school district, school officials allowed white classmates to use common racial slurs on numerous occasions over a four-year period.
Minneapolis attorney Joshua Williams represents the girls and their mother. He says neither school administrators nor the district did anything to discipline the white students after the girls complained of discrimiation and harassment.
"At every turn, the school just turned a blind eye to those complaints and said, 'we don't have to deal with it,'" Williams said. "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 names the school district as well as former Zumbrota-Mazeppa Middle School principal David Fleming, high school principal Erick Enger, high school guidance counselor Angela Hunstad, and high school science teacher Angela Heitman.
Williams said the alleged harassment caused the girls emotional damage.
In a statement, district officials deny the civil rights violations and say the district will fight the claims in court, according to Rochester attorney Ken Schueler, representing the school district.
"Pretty much anybody can start a lawsuit, but then you have to meet the legal requirements for continuing to assert that claim," Schueler said. "It is a difficult legal standard for the plaintiff."