Lawsuit Filed After Black Band Students Were Allegedly Forced to Sit at Back of Bus During School Trip

A former student is seeking compensation after filing a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination from her high school’s district in Iowa.

A recent lawsuit has reportedly been filed following a 2021 incident where three Black Waukee high school students were allegedly forced to ride home in the back of the bus from a band trip.

According to The Iowa Capital Dispatch, the lawsuit, filed by the now-former student, Bailey Hilson, who was a high school senior at the time, alleges that a white parent chaperoning the trip instigated an altercation with the Black students that eventually became physical. Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the school district’s investigation of the incident, conducted by Assistant Principal Christie Pitts, failed to adequately address Hilson’s emotional distress.

In a letter sent to the district’s superintendent in December 2021, the Black students, members of the Northwest High School band’s color guard, headed to the bus before the conclusion of the competition’s awards ceremony, which allegedly caused the parent volunteer to become unsettled by the students’ “disgraceful” gesture toward their teammates.

With permission from the band director, the Black students, along with two other white students, gathered on the bus before the parent chaperone ordered them to get off, dismissed the white students, and confronted the remaining Black students with another white parent.

The incident escalated after one student tried to leave to locate the band director and the parent allegedly grabbed his arm to keep him from leaving, causing a heated exchange between Hilson and the parent.

The parent “responded by ‘getting in the face’ of Hilson, shouting at her, and thumping her in the forehead with her finger,” wrote Jerry Foxhoven, the Des Moines attorney representing Hilson.

Reportedly, the students requested to not ride back to Waukee on the bus with the parent volunteers.

“This mature and reasonable request was denied, and the three Black students were instructed to ‘sit in the back of the bus’ and not interact with the adults on the way home,” Foxhoven wrote. “This direction…created a pathetic scene reminiscent of our nation’s history of segregation in public transportation. The students, left with no other choice, followed instructions.”

“We regret the breakdown in the system that led to this event,” said the message, which was signed by the school’s two band directors.

“You can be assured that we are taking proactive steps with administration to help ensure that such an incident does not happen again.”

The Des Moines Register reported that, according to the school district, the students were not at fault, and Pitts concluded the parent volunteer grabbed or touched two students.

The lawsuit says Hilson “suffered severe emotional distress, causing her to miss school, struggle with depression and feel isolated and unsupported at school, causing her to miss the true joy normally experienced by a student in their senior year of high school.”

The lawsuit names the school district, Superintendent Brad Buck, and former Principal Fairouz Bishara-Rantisi as defendants, but not the parent volunteers.