Z-M school district subject to federal lawsuitMinnesota News
-- Three sisters have filed a federal lawsuit against the Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District alleging racial discrimination, hostile environment and violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
By: Sarah Gorvin - Red Wing Republican-Eagle, Pierce County Herald
ZUMBROTA, Minn. - Three sisters have filed a federal lawsuit against the Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District alleging racial discrimination, hostile environment and violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
The complaint was filed by the girls’ attorney Joshua Williams on July 27. Williams also represented Quera Pruitt in her civil rights lawsuit against Red Wing School District, which was settled last month.
The complaint against Z-M lists former middle school principal David Fleming, high school principal Erick Enger, high school guidance counselor Angela Hunstad and high school teacher Angela Heitman as defendants. The girls are not identified by name.
According to the complaint, the 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 complaint also says that 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.
As a result, the girls “suffered severe extreme emotional distress, including depression, loss of sleep, stress, crying, humiliation, anxiety and shame.” The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial and are asking for punitive damages as well as attorney fees.
The Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District released a statement denying the complaint’s claims.
“The allegations of civil rights violations are false,” the statement says. “It will vigorously defend against these claims in the court system.”
The district has hired two law firms to defend the case.
The complaint against Z-M directly references Pruitt’s lawsuit against Red Wing 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 says.
That case was settled out of court last month; Pruitt was awarded $90,000, and the district admitted no wrongdoing.