K.R. v. Duluth Pub. Schs. Academy
Public Justice and Nichols Kaster represent students of color and their families in a civil rights lawsuit against Duluth Public Schools Academy d/b/a Duluth Edison Charter Schools that seeks to hold the public charter school system accountable for subjecting black and biracial students to a discriminatory and hostile education environment based on their race. Students of color in the charter schools are experiencing pervasive race-based harassment from their fellow students and school employees.
Students and staff in the Charter Schools are overwhelmingly white. Approximately 77% of the students are white, 4% are black, and 12 % are two or more races. Black and bi-racial students are regularly called the “N” word at school and taunted with other hate speech by white students. And some black and biracial students, including the named plaintiffs, have suffered physical assaults. One plaintiff was bitten in the ear by a white student, another was spit on so profusely by a white student that she had to change her clothes, and the white teacher of another plaintiff cut a dreadlock from his head without warning or consent. The white harassers received little to no punishment. And black and biracial students are punished more harshly and more regularly than their white peers. When the Charter Schools’ African-American Cultural Liaison complained about the discriminatory treatment that students and families of color were experiencing at school, she was fired.
The lawsuit asserts race discrimination claims under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution (pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Minnesota’s Human Rights Act; a retaliation claim under Title VI and Minnesota’s Human Rights Act; and a failure to train claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
On March 16, 2022, the district court denied the Charter Schools’ motion for summary judgment. Over the Schools’ objection, it later publicly released its corresponding opinion without redactions. The parties have settled the case.