Three families and the University Place School District have settled a lawsuit surrounding allegations of racial discrimination. Filed back in 2015, related court documents claim the plaintiffs, all African American, experienced “racial name-calling, discriminatory grading practices and other forms of harassment” during their time at Curtis High School. When complaints about the harassment were reported, the plaintiff’s parents claimed they were “ignored or rebuffed.”
Fortunately for the plaintiffs, including former students Jamal Welch, Elijah West and Tyrell Wells and their parents, the school district finally agreed to a settlement and will pay $450,000 from a “statewide risk pool, made up of member school districts and other educational organizations.” Included in the settlement, however, is a statement that “it is a settlement of disputed claims, not an admission of liability by the school district.” In fact, in court, “the school district denied most of the allegations.”
But what events actually occurred that led to the lawsuit being filed in the first place? Well, according to court documents, the student’s described the environment at Curtis as toxic, and claimed “other students regularly called them the n-word,” and that they “had to focus on surviving each and every school day without having a mental or emotional reaction.”
According to Welch, “he transferred to University Place schools from Tacoma seeking better preparation for college in a school with a reputation for strong academics.” However, due to the toxic environment at Curtis, he ended up transferring back to Wilson High School. Regarding his experience at Curtis, he said:
“To this day, I have lingering stress and anxiety from my Curtis experience. While before I was easygoing and trusting of people, now I find that I hang back and analyze people before trusting them. I also am more defensive than I used to be, and feel like I need to justify or explain who I am since I learned at Curtis that people have stereotypes and biases against me.”
As a whole, all three former students agreed that their time spent at Curtis left them feeling “stressed and anxious,” making it more difficult to focus on their studies.
When asked about the lawsuit and the settlement, Superintendent Jeff Chamberlin said “he could not comment on allegations in the lawsuit.” When asked how similar situations of discrimination and harassment will be prevented in the future, he mentioned the “district’s support and mentoring programs,” and said, “we have a number of programs to support our students that we think achieve great results.”
At the moment, both sides are prohibited from speaking about the case to the media. Nonetheless, it’s always a good thing to see racial discrimination stopped in its tracks.