WALES,WI— A lawsuit against the Kettle Moraine School District is seeking greater accountability from the district in implementing and enforcing anti-bullying programs.
At issue is whether the school district failed to appropriately respond after Ebony Crumble, the mother of a 15-year-old girl, repeatedly went to district officials after her daughter reported being racially bullied.
An attorney for Ebony Crumble filed the suit against the district. B’Ivory LaMarr, the attorney for the Crumble family, held a news conference outside of Kettle Moraine High School on Friday with the teen and her mother. The teen wore a mask but her tears were noticeable as her mom held onto her.
LaMarr said during the news conference the student was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.
“Unfortunately these acts have also led to (name redacted) to attempting to commit suicide on multiple occasions. Enough is enough,” LaMarr said Friday.
Crumble said after each incident she sought out the appropriate leadership and was promised there would be change. Crumble said she was told the school wanted to “shuffle away from the punishment side” because “it wouldn’t appeal to the empathy and tolerance to the students,” she said. Crumble asked for a zero-tolerance policy and said the issue was widespread and not isolated to the same group of students.
A spokesperson for the Kettle Moraine School District released the following statement to Patch.
“We cannot comment on pending litigation, nor can we comment – per state statutes – on the personal files of students and/or disciplinary actions pertaining to students. We have made statements concerning our work – past, present and plans for future – on the topics of bullying, cultural proficiency and equity and implored our community to assist us in these efforts. In accordance with our detailed board policies, our district and its staff immediately act upon every complaint/incident it becomes aware of.”
LaMarr said the teen was sent emails with racist language in 2017.
“She has been accosted by students and asked have you ever seen anyone get shot,” LaMarr said.
He said teachers who overheard the racial slurs would just yell “hey” at the students.
In 2019, LaMarr said there were several incidents of racial bullying. In one incident, according to LaMarr, a student wrote a racial slur on a whiteboard directed at the teen at Kettle Moraine Middle School. He said the school district stated the slurs were due to “music they heard and probably the reason why they wrote it.”
The teen’s mother was also told by the school administration that the middle school students, “had no real understanding of the consequences of their actions.” LaMarr said the school chose to use the incident as an education lesson.
The same year, in another incident, LaMarr said a teacher turned off the classroom lights and a student said, “Where did (name redacted) go?” The class erupted in laughter, he said.
LaMarr said the teen has recorded students making physical threats to her and other students. “No meaningful response (from the school district) was ever received,” he said.
Another incident described by the lawyer was an email from a student telling the teen to “go back to the hood.”
The most recent incident was on Sept. 3. “Black lives don’t matter one bit you stupid (expletive) (racial slur),” a Snapchat message apparently directed at the Black. teen. Two students from Kettle Moraine High School were said to be facing disorderly conduct charges in connection with the Snapchat message.
The Kettle Moraine School District sent out a letter to the school community shortly after the September incident.
A Cultural Advisory Committee was formed, with Crumble appointed to serve as chair. The purpose of the committee was to discuss racial issues at Kettle Moraine High School.
“Time after time, this family has asked this school district to take meaningful action and they have failed miserably,” LaMarr said.
‘Not a Black or white thing’
The lawsuit seeks equitable relief in the form of policy reforms and asks the school district to implement and recognize National Bullying Month. The lawsuit also seeks a neutral third-party to do a bullying assessment on each campus and provide a school safety coordinator to “ensure the compliance with anti-bullying programs,” LaMarr said.
LaMarr said he is very proud that there have been students and parents in the school district who have shown support for the teen and want to see change. One student formed an online petition on Change.org.
“We expect the lawsuit to hold this school accountable on a public scale and put in place programs and anti-bullying programs,” he said.
He added it was not a Black or white thing but was about diversity and inclusion. LaMarr said even though students are learning at home due the pandemic, they are still getting bullied. The latest incident happened while the teen was at home.
Crumble said she was proud of her daughter who is doing better academically through virtual learning. By attending class online, her daughter can walk away — an option she didn’t have while in class.
Published at Fri, 16 Oct 2020 12:06:00 +0000