Jayla Tolliver and Taylissa Marriott, two black teens attending Swope Middle School, say that despite reporting several instances of racial abuse and harassment, school officials showed indifference toward their complaints and did not address their concerns in a helpful manner.
Several lawsuits have set the precedent here that children in a school setting do not have their constitutional rights suspended simply because they are at school. The same laws and rules that would apply to a workplace thus also extended to Swope Middle School.
In other words, Jayla and Taylissa were subjected to a hostile work environment that was fostered by administration and teachers. When that happens to workers, they have cause to sue their place of employment. When it happens to students, they can do the same.
A Culture of Racial Bullying
Hostile work environments happen when there is a culture of passively condoned harassment. The girls alleged that they were subjected to nearly daily racial slurs and other bullying tactics. At one point, the son of the local sheriff shared a Facebook post that said: “the redneck god of all gods. we bout to go (slur) hunting. watch out (slurs).” Parents filed a complaint against the boy, but their statements were “accidentally” shredded. The sheriff said that he failed to act because the statements were protected by the first amendment and did not rise to the level of a director credible threat.
While this was probably intended as a joke, those on the receiving end of daily harassment could only see it as an escalation of the bullying and intimidation that they faced on a daily basis.
Attorneys for the girls alleged that despite obvious signs and the girls’ own complaints to the administration, there is no evidence that the school ever launched an investigation nor disciplined anyone for their conduct. At times, it seemed to the girls like teachers were justifying the conduct by saying that racism happens on both sides. Likewise, there was no evidence that the school district so much as interviewed the girls about their experiences.
The Defense Argument
The defense argued that the plaintiffs failed to prove a “deliberate indifference” to the racial bullying. That is the federal standard by which these types of discrimination and bullying lawsuits must be proven. In some cases, this can be very difficult to prove. Plaintiff’s attorneys are forced into the position of proving why something did not happen.
In this case, because the girls took their complaint to teachers and administrators within the school, and nothing seemed to happen. Yet the school appeared adamant in their assertion that they met with students, reached out to the parents of over 50 students, suspended six students, and filed police reports on another four. Nonetheless, they settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money.
Contact and Employment Discrimination Attorney
The Las Vegas attorneys at HKM Employment Law can help in the event that racial harassment creates a hostile work environment. Give us a call at 702.625.3893 and we can begin preparing your case immediately.