ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — A complaint filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights on Monday states that an Ann Arbor Pioneer High School math teacher created a racially hostile environment for Black students in her class for years.
The case, which was filed by a student at the high school, is being represented by the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative (CRLI) at the University of Michigan Law School
“This summer, an ever-increasing array of Americans are realizing what Black Americans have always known: this country has spent generations institutionalizing racism in every facet of American life, including education,” said CRLI student attorney, Liza Davis. “We call on Pioneer to listen to the brave students who have come forward to tell their stories, and to rectify the vile racism pervading its environment. Black Lives Matter.”
In February, the high school's Black Student Union petitioned to have the teacher removed.
The CRLI describes in a 14-page letter the racism students say they faced while in this teacher's classroom, which included humiliating Black students who were struggling in math by putting their grades on the Smart Board for everyone to see, which is a violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act; students say she was hostile to members of the Black Student Union; she allegedly used coded language against Black students by calling them "criminals" and "delinquents;" the teacher also refused to bring her class to the Black History Month assembly because it was a "waste of time" and it didn't focus enough on how white people made contributions to Black people.
“High school is hard enough without being bullied by teachers,” said Makayla Kelsey, the high school junior who filed the complaint on behalf of herself and other Black students. “All students, not just white students, deserve a welcoming and supportive environment.”
The CRLI is demanding action from school officials saying, "Too often, leaders make performative statements of solidarity during times like these without taking action to give meaning to their words."
In the complaint letter, students seek for the Ann Arbor Pioneer school administration to take these first steps:
1. Hire a civil rights organization to conduct an independent investigation of the racial climate at Pioneer, whether the curriculum is “culturally responsive” to Black students, and whether the faculty and staff reflect the racial and cultural diversity of the school.
2. Create a Race Discrimination Complaint system and encourage students to use it. Currently, there is no such system and, according to the letter, Pioneer’s response to FOIA requests of CRLI reflected a desire to sweep issues of race discrimination under the rug rather than addressing them head on.
3. Start the process to terminate the aforementioned teacher’s employment.
Andrew Cluley, a school spokesperson, released this statement: "In the Ann Arbor Public Schools, we stand strongly against any and all acts of racism, bigotry and bias. We will not comment publicly on personnel processes or pending litigation."