A mother of a Black 14-year-old student in Tennessee is seeking $2.5 million in damages against a school district over allegations that her son was the victim of racial harassment.
According to the Beaumont Enterprise, Erika Qualls filed a federal lawsuit late last month as well as an injunction against Church Hill Middle School and the Hawkins County Board of Education to prevent her son from being “regularly subjected to a pervasive, racially-hostile school environment.”
The lawsuit claims that Qualls’ eighth-grade son is one of only five Black students in the school of approximately 400.
“(Qualls) alleges that Hawkins County Board of Education officials knowingly tolerated, condoned, and were deliberately indifferent to the pattern of racial harassment suffered by (Qualls’ son), thereby depriving him of equal access to educational opportunity and resulting in severe emotional injury,” the lawsuit said.
Larry Crain, the attorney representing the family, confirmed that there has been at least 12 racial harassment episodes that have been documented in this case, Revolt reported. These incidents date back to September 2021. The lawsuit highlights an incident when a white classmate allegedly said in a message, “fight me you (expletive) monkey.”
Crain describes another incident where the boy was “stalked” by a student and “shoved information in front of him depicting African-Americans with nooses and KKK literature.” The lawsuit adds that the 14-year-old boy was “a victim of a slave auction.” He received images of KKK members holding torches on “monkey island,” and was “nominated as monkey of the month” by white students.
According to the complaint, Qualls brought her concerns to school officials but “there was no effort made to intervene at the school level to make sure the perpetrators of these attacks were dealt with appropriately,” per Revolt.
The Hawkins County Board of Education issued a statement to the Atlanta Black Star denying all allegations in the lawsuit.
“Hawkins County Schools understands a parent has filed suit against our school system. Though the school system will not address specifics in an effort to protect student privacy, we vehemently deny that our school system tolerates racial discrimination or harassment of any kind. When such allegations are brought to our attention regarding student conduct, we take steps to investigate the same and to discipline those found responsible.”