Year in review: As Red Wing lawsuit settled, Z-M suit beginsNo. 5: Four days after Minneapolis attorney Joshua Williams helped a former Red Wing High School student settle a discrimination lawsuit with Red Wing School District, he filed another discrimination lawsuit on behalf of three sisters against Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Four days after Minneapolis attorney Joshua Williams helped a former Red Wing High School student settle a discrimination lawsuit with Red Wing School District, he filed another discrimination lawsuit on behalf of three sisters against Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District.
“This is — shockingly — another case about a Goodhue County high school whose teachers and administrators turned a blind eye to severe student-on-student racial harassment,” the complaint Williams filed July 27 against Z-M states.
On July 23, Williams signed a stipulation for dismissal in the Red Wing lawsuit. The out-of-court settlement awarded former Red Wing High School student Quera Pruitt $90,000.
“The parties desire to forgo the cost and expense of further litigation and resolve any and all disputes between them,” the agreement states.
Red Wing School District’s liability insurance covered the money for the settlement, as well as the district’s attorney’s fees, Finance Director Brad Johnson said in August. The district only had to pay its $1,000 deductible.
Pruitt originally filed the suit in federal court July 29, 2011, claiming that the district violated her civil rights during the school’s Homecoming week in 2009. About 60 students came to school dressed in stereotypical black clothing, deeming the unsanctioned dress-up day “Wigger Day.”
The settlement states that the defendants — the school district and Red Wing High School Principal Beth Borgen — continue to deny that they discriminated against Pruitt or violated her rights. The settlement bars Pruitt from suing the district over the “Wigger Day” incident in the future and releases the district form liability for any “known and unknown” injuries and damages.
The lawsuit against Z-M also alleges racial discrimination. According to the complaint, three sisters, who are black, were repeatedly called “niggers” by classmates several times from 2008 to 2012.
In addition, the complaint says the sisters got into altercations with white students about the name calling twice. However, the school only reprimanded the black sisters, once by forbidding them from riding the bus for a period of time and once by suspending them from school.
The sisters and their mother reported the name calling incidents to school administration on multiple occasions. However, their complaints were not investigated, the complaint says.
“No school district likes to be sued for discrimination,” Supt. Tony Simons said in an interview with the R-E. “We feel that allegations are wrong. They’re false.”
Simons said while he is continuing to work with school district attorneys on the case, the racial discrimination lawsuit hasn’t affected the district as a whole. However, it has had an impact on defendants former middle school Principal David Fleming, high school Principal Erick Enger, high school guidance counselor Angela Hunstad and high school teacher Angela Heitman, he said.
“The people whose names are on there, it obviously affects them. That gets to be pretty personal,” Simons said.
A settlement conference for the case has been set for Feb. 12 in St. Paul. Still, Simons said he doesn’t see the district coming to an agreement with the plaintiffs.
“We don’t think we should settle,” he said. “We don’t think we’ve done anything wrong.”