Lawsuit filed against Duluth Edison alleges racial discrimination

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DULUTH, MN– A lawsuit filed against Duluth Edison Charter School alleges racial discrimination against students, staff and administration.

The lawsuit, filed in April by three families with students of color, alleged the students have experienced racist, unfair, hurtful and at times dangerous interaction with staff and students at Duluth Edison.

The charter school has two campuses in Duluth, Raleigh and North Star.

One of the students named in the lawsuit attend Raleigh.

A second transferred out.

One a 2nd grader, the other a 5th grader.

The third student attends North Star and is in seventh grade.

“The N-word is rampant at these two campuses, so much so that we can’t even quantify for you how often it is said.”

Some tough accusations laid out Thursday by Rebekah Bailey, the attorney for the families who’ve filed suit against Duluth Edison Charter schools.

The suit claimed that for years these students experienced racial discrimination…

“Our clients have been called Negro, monkey, they’ve been told they look like what’s on the inside of a toilet,” said Bailey.

And physical abuse.

“Our clients have been spit on, they have been bitten, they have been punched,” she said.

But they said abuse didn’t just come from students.

“They’ve even been grabbed by the face by actual faculty, and have had their dreadlocks cutoff without consent by actual teachers.”

In the midst of it all, the lawsuit alleged Duluth Edison writes up African-American students at a higher rate than white students.

The suit claimed many of the write ups are for students of color defending themselves against racist and bullying behavior.

“In fact, when they brought these issues forward, things often got worse for the students.”

The lawsuit accused the school system of failing to provide a safe, educational space.

“They tried everything before resorting to a lawsuit. They’ve called, they’ve complained, they’ve met with administration and nothing seemed to change.”

The attorney representing the families said one of the students even contemplated suicide.

The lawsuit is seeking a permanent injunction directing Duluth Edison to comply with federal and state law.

They’re also seeking financial damages of at least $75,000.

“We’re just hoping the Duluth community will take a look at what’s going on at Duluth Edison, and hopefully everyone can come together to right this wrong.”

We reached out to Duluth Edison for comment Thursday.

They wouldn’t go on camera, but in an email sent to parents and faculty, Bonnie Jorgenson, the head of Duluth Edison, addressed the lawsuit but didn’t go into specific allegations made against the schools.

“The school strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct, “Jorgenson wrote. “The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations. There is nothing more important to Duluth Edison Charter Schools than the well being of the students we educate every day.”

Jorgenson said Duluth Edison has practices and policies that protect students from discrimination.

Duluth Edison has until Tuesday, May 21 to file a response to the lawsuit in court.

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DULUTH, MN – A lawsuit filed against Duluth Edison Charter School alleges racial discrimination against students, staff and administration.

The lawsuit, filed in April by three families with students of color, alleges the students have experienced racist, unfair, hurtful and at times dangerous interaction with staff and students at Duluth Edison.

“Every student has a right to attend school free from discrimination and harassment, no matter the color of their skin. Duluth Edison Charter Schools is not meeting this obligation,” Rebekah Bailey, the families attorney said.

The lawsuit claims the school treats the three students differently than white students in a discriminatory manner.

The suit also claims Duluth Edison writes up African-American students at a higher rate than Caucasian students. Additionally, African-American students are often written up for defending themselves against white students who are engaging in racist and bullying behavior, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit claims the school system failed to take adequate steps to provide the students with educational atmosphere free of race discrimination, and as a direct result, the students suffered emotional distress, loss of companionship and loss of educational opportunities.

One of the students has since been transferred to another district where he is said to be thriving. The two other students remain at Duluth Edison, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is seeking a permanent injunction directing Duluth Edison to comply with federal and state law and monetary relief in an amount to be determined at trial, but not less than $75,000.

“When the students and their families complained to school officials, they were brushed off, ignored, or—even worse—punished for speaking up. Duluth Edison Charter Schools has been paying lip service to caring about its students of color and the discrimination they experience at school,” Bailey said.

In an email sent to parents and faculty, Bonnie Jorgenson, the head of Duluth Edison, addressed the lawsuit but didn’t go into specific allegations made against the schools.

“The school strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct, “Jorgenson wrote. “The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations. There is nothing more important to Duluth Edison Charter Schools than the well being of the students we educate every day.”

Jorgenson said Duluth Edison has practices and policies that protect students from discrimination.

Duluth Edison has until Tuesday, May 21 to file a response to the lawsuit in court.

Kevin Jacobsen

Kevin Jacobsen

News Director

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