Wash. school dist. settles racial discrimination suit

Three families and the University Place School District, based in Washington state, agreed to settle a lawsuit earlier this month surrounding allegations of racial discrimination, The News Tribune reports.

Former students Jamal Welch, Elijah West, and Tyrell Wells, who all attended the only high school in the district, Curtis High School, were said to be happy when the settlement amount of $450,000 was announced.

The district will pay that amount from a “statewide risk pool, made up of member school districts and other educational organizations” but called it merely “a settlement of disputed claims, not an admission of liability by the school district.” The district has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the case, which was first filed in 2015.

But, according to court documents, the student plaintiffs said “other students regularly called them the n-word” and they “had to focus on surviving each and every school day without having a mental or emotional reaction.”

Superintendent Jeff Chamberlin wouldn’t answer any questions about the specific details in this settlement but did tell the paper about several mentoring programs for students in place at Curtis. “We have a number of programs to support our students that we think achieve great results,” he was quoted as saying.

Mr Welch was quoted by BET News as follows:

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.

Mr Wells told the court a teacher once said to the class he would be more likely than other students at the predominantly white school to commit a crime—simply because he was black.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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