Five students and their mothers from Coosa High School in Rome, Georgia, filed a federal lawsuit against the Floyd County School District, alleging racial discrimination at the school and violations of their First Amendment and equal protection rights.
“The African-American Plaintiffs challenge Coosa High’s deliberate indifference to acts of racial animosity toward Black students perpetrated by White students and teachers, as well as the school’s viewpoint discrimination in its dress code and the inconsistent administration of disciplinary policies to the detriment of Black students,” according to the lawsuit.
“This case serves as a reminder that we in the South are still fighting over who and what we are as a region,” plaintiff attorney Artur Davis said in a statement to CNN. “Cases like this are necessary to show how far we still need to go in the South to be one community.”
A 2018-2019 Georgia Schools report said the school district was 78% White and 7% Black. About 4% of students were identified as multiracial.
According to the lawsuit, school administrators engaged in a “egregious pattern of deliberately ignoring Plaintiff’s complaints regarding repeated incidents of racial intimidation and bigotry” at the school. It described several incidents, including a re-enactment of George Floyd’s death in the school hallway, a student wearing a Confederate flag belt and addressing Black students as “slaves,” and a White student holding a whip and telling Black students, “we used to whip you with this.”
The suit also claims that White students at the school openly use the N-word and that racist remarks have been posted on social media and used by White teachers.
According to the lawsuit, the school’s dress code allows the wearing of Confederate flag apparel but forbids the wearing of any “Black Lives Matter” apparel or related theme imagery.
The suit claims that during Spirit Week in October 2021, White students were permitted to carry a Confederate flag around the school’s campus. According to the suit, in response, a group of students organized a protest of the school’s tolerance of the symbol, which was to take place in between classes and during breaks off school grounds.
According to the lawsuit, the school “forcefully acted to shut down the protest,” making an announcement that the protest was prohibited and students caught with fliers would be disciplined. The plaintiffs also claim that reports they made about racial incidents at school were ignored by teachers and administrators.
The plaintiffs are seeking an undisclosed amount of monetary damages, as well as an amendment to the school dress code to prohibit discrimination based on political or ideological beliefs, as well as the expungement of the plaintiffs’ disciplinary records to remove all sanctions or discipline for planning the October protest.
“This is a lawsuit in which you demand that they cease discriminating against these students.” Allow them to attend school and receive an education. Racism has no place in our country, and especially not in our school systems,” Attorney Harry Daniels told CNN.
Plaintiff attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan said in a separate statement that the students and families bringing the lawsuit “deserve the Court’s protection, and I am confident our lawsuit will prevail.”
“I hope that people across the country will look to the incredible example that the young plaintiffs in this case are setting and step up to confront civil rights violations,” Liss-Riordan said.