Parents of five Black elementary and middle school students in Livingston County are suing the district, alleging their children endured “severe, pervasive, and persistent” racist comments as administrators looked the other way.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by the prominent civil rights law firm Marko Law, says the students at Pathfinder Middle School and Navigator Upper Elementary School were called the n-word, “monkeys,” and “cotton pickers,” among other derogatory slurs.

Despite a repeated pattern of white students mocking Black children, administrators at Pinckney Community Schools have failed to “take any meaningful action to correct the behavior or end the racism,” according to the lawsuit.

The students are as young as 11 years old.

At Pinckney Community Schools, 92.3% of the students are white.

The lawsuit also alleges that Black students are disciplined more harshly than white students. In one case, the district refused to punish the harassers “out of fear of labeling them a ‘racist,’ while the harassed child was suspended for two days,” according to the lawsuit.

“Any school district has a duty and obligation to look out for the welfare and wellbeing of its students,” Jon Marko, principal attorney and founder of Marko Law, said in a statement Wednesday. “Not only did Pinckney Community Schools breach its duty when it failed to protect these children from racial discrimination, but it also failed to act or protect from the incessant bullying and humiliation the children experienced. As a consequence, racism continues to permeate throughout the school district. No parent should be scared to send a child to school for fear of racial harassment.”

Metro Times couldn’t immediately reach district administrators for comment.

The lawsuit was filed against the district, Superintendent Rick Todd, and principals Janet McDole and Lori Sandula.

According to the lawsuit, the school failed to review the incidents collectively to determine if there is a racist, hostile environment. And the harassers who were disciplined faced lenient corrective action, the lawsuit claims.

Marko also alleges that district administrators are not properly trained in investigating harassment complaints. In addition, the administrators failed to accurately record the incidents of harassment and didn’t follow school procedures to address the behavior.

The lawsuit lists multiple, troubling incidents of harassment. At Pathfinder Elementary School, one student, identified as S.C. in the lawsuit, was physically assaulted, called the n-word, “cotton picker,” and “monkey,” and was told she does not belong, according to the lawsuit. To avoid the harassers, she hid in hallways until the instigating students reported to class. As a result, she has repeatedly been written up for being tardy to class.

When the students’ parents complained, they often didn’t hear back from administrators, the lawsuit states. A father of one of the students said he asked a principal why she did not alert him to racial harassment targeting his child. The principal responded that she didn’t want to bring negative attention to the behavior or label the white student as a racist.

At Navigator Upper Elementary School, a Black child was called various derogatory names, and each time the teachers failed to do anything about it. At one point, the student was so distraught that his teacher failed to take action that he asked his parents to pick him up from school.

“Teachers are present when slurs are used against African

American students, administrators are informed of racist behaviors, including physical assaults, and parents routinely escalate racist incidents to principals and the superintendent,” the lawsuit states. “Yet, Defendant has failed to take meaningful action.”

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