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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A former student is going after Westfield Washington Schools in federal court.

She says the school district in Hamilton County did nothing to protect her from “relentless racist bullying.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on Thursday filed the lawsuit on behalf of the former student.

She was a seventh-grader at Westfield Middle School in 2020 when the alleged abuse happened. The school is at 345 W. Hoover St., on the district’s campus of schools just northeast of U.S. 31 and State Road 32.

The lawsuit says the student endured explicit comparisons to a monkey and routine use of a racial slur.

The lawsuit shows the student’s parents reported abuse numerous times and administrators told them they filed multiple police reports.

The lawsuit also claims Westfield Police Department has no such records.

The student’s parents ended up enrolling their child in an online school.

In a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, the school superintendent says the district is aware of the lawsuit but has yet to be served with a copy.

Statement issued by the ACLU of Indiana:

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit against the Westfield Washington School Corp, after administrators failed to protect a student from pervasive and relentless racist bullying at the hands of her classmates.

The student, identified only as S.J. because she is a minor, was a seventh-grade student at Westfield Middle School, and one of very few Black students in her class, during the 2019-2020 school year. The bullying endured by S.J. included statements regarding S.J.’s facial features, explicit comparisons to a monkey, questions regarding whether S.J. was attracted to orangutans, and the routine use of the ‘n-word.’  In addition, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes online in the spring of 2020, several students chanted the ‘n-word’ at S.J. while attendance was being taken during a Zoom session.

We want to protect and make a change for the minority children and families in Westfield Washington School District, so that their families do not have to endure the hurt, disappointment, and safety concerns we experienced,’ said S.J.’s parents, Anthony and Brandi Johnson. ‘You have to speak up about any kind of discrimination in order to make a change and to protect each other.’

According to the complaint, racist abuse was reported to school administrators on numerous occasions. While administrators purported to offer S.J. their sympathy, they repeatedly failed to take reasonable measures to protect S.J. from continuing abuse.  Administrators also claimed to have filed multiple police reports of which the Westfield Police claimed to have no records. S.J.’s parents ultimately removed her from Westfield Middle School, enrolling her in an online school for her 8th grade year. 

The failure to protect S.J. from clear instances of racist bullying constitutes actionable discrimination under Title VI of Civil Rights of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq.  

Under federal law, public schools have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect their students from pervasive race-based bullying,’ said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana Senior Staff Attorney. ‘Westfield Middle School administrators failed to protect S.J. from abuse from her classmates, ultimately excluding her from access to a safe and equal learning experience.’

The release is available here.

The complaint is available here.

Statement issued by Paul A. Kaiser, Superintendent of Westfield Washington Schools:

Though we are aware of a lawsuit filed against Westfield Washington Schools, we have yet to be served.

Westfield Washington Schools has always strived to be a place where all students can achieve academic and social success. We’ve put an emphasis on cultivating an environment where all students feel safe, seen and valued.

We are committed to creating a positive and welcoming environment for every student who walks through our halls. For every one of our district families, we will continue on this journey to expand our perspectives and work together to make our school district a place where every student knows they belong and can achieve their goals.”