Douglas School logo, woman holding phone with snapchat app open

Douglas County School District/Facebook Natee Meepian/ShutterStock (Licensed)

Snapchat group with 100 students tagged Black kids in racial slurs, fueled racism at middle school, lawsuit alleges

The lawsuit was filed by the parents of alleged victims.

 

Marlon Ettinger

Tech

Parents for four children in Colorado recently filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County School District, the district’s Board of Education, and the principal of Castle Rock Middle School, alleging that the school knowingly allowed a racist environment to flourish. 

The harassment, according to the complaint, included a racist Snapchat group created by white students, who posted violent threats and racial slurs, often tagging Black students they were harassing so they would see their words and abuse. According to the complaint, 100 students from the district’s high school and middle school were in the Snapchat group.

For months, the complaint alleges, students at schools in the district were subjected to vicious racist harassment by their peers. 

The complaint alleges that teachers and administrators did nothing despite the behavior being reported. The students also reported being subjected to unequal behavior from teachers.

In March 2023, according to the suit, one Black student was invited to a Snapchat group where “fellow students engaged in a continuous stream of racially derogatory and offensive comments, many of them violent, and many of them tagging their few Black fellow students so that they would be sure to see the vile messages,” according to the complaint.

“Two students spoke about eliminating African Americans from the planet,” the complaint alleges.

“we should remove blacks from this planet bring back toho [sic] holocaust…” it quoted one student’s post. Another student responded that Black people should just kill themselves.

According to the complaint, Snap, Inc. had “over ninety warrants” served on it by law enforcement to preserve the data from the chat, which was disbanded after a student reported it to the administration. Snap didn’t respond to a request for comment about their cooperation with the warrants, its data preservation policies, or its content moderation guidelines for private group chats.  

The suit was filed by five parents on behalf of their children.

One child, who is a biracial sixteen-year-old girl, attended Douglas County High School for a month in the 2022-2023 school year. The lawsuit recounted how white students repeatedly used the N-word around her and called her a “fat cotton picker.”  

A physical education teacher overheard the comments and reported them to the administration, but the principal told the student’s mother that the school wouldn’t take action against the student who made the comments, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit recounted how the student also said that a female teacher chastised her for wearing a pair of Nike athletic shorts. Despite the outfit being common at the school, the complaint alleges, the teacher said that the student was violating the school’s dress code.

When the student pointed out a white female student walking by wearing the same pair of athletic shorts, the teacher told the student “she was not built like the other girls,” the complaint alleged.

The student’s mother said she removed her from the school after the lack of action taken by the principal.

The student’s brother, an eighth grader at Castle Rock Middle School, was also subject to racist harassment, along with two other eighth graders, according to the complaint.

“The racially discriminatory harassment included verbal insults, racist jokes, and threats of violence,” the complaint alleges.

That included constant use of the N-word, as well as a cruel and ongoing nickname for one of the students, who they called “Monkey M.” (M. was the student’s full last name, which is withheld in the lawsuit).

Unrecorded

The complaint also alleged that a student told him to “go back to the plantation you cotton-picking monkey.” 

Unrecorded

The complaint detailed how students also took pictures of one of the students while he was in the restroom, which they spread around the internet.

After he found out the picture circulated, the student “refused to use the school bathrooms ever again, causing him significant stress, discomfort, and damage to his health,” according to the lawsuit, which says that the stress sent him to the emergency room with excruciating pain in his stomach.

The principal organized a conversation between the student and a girl who called him “monkey boy,” but never told the Black student’s parents, or implemented a plan to stop the racist harassment, the lawsuit alleges.

After months of the abuse, one student wrote an email to the school district detailing his distress over his treatment, the lawsuit recounted. But he never received a response.  

“I felt singled out,” he wrote. “It’s no one in particular, it’s everyone. It wasn’t just today, it’s everyday. There will even be times when staff will be in the area when such discrimination takes place. Nothing is done about the matter.”

The complaint says that a communications officer for Douglas County School District forwarded the complaint to the principal. The communications officer didn’t respond to a request for comment about how the school addressed the racist harassment. 

After a student reported the Snapchat group to the administration, it was deleted. The Daily Dot confirmed with the Castle Rock Police Department that a parent reported the Snapchat group on April 20, 2023. The parent was directed back to a school resource officer with Castle Rock Police, but aside from a single call months later, there was no follow up.

“WHOEVER THE FUCK SENT THOSE SCREENSHOTS TO THE SCHOOL FUCK YOU I HAVE NOTHING,” posted one student when the Snapchat group was revealed, according to the complaint. “im suspended for the next week but I cannot explain how unbelievably fucked i am.”

“N****r explain this” posted another.

“We all fucking know we were joking around,” one student posted according to a transcript in the complaint. According to the lawsuit, only one student was given a “very short” suspension.

But the rest of the administration’s plans to address the situation were vague, according to the complaint. 

With no change was forthcoming, two of the students’ parents said they took them out of school to finish the year remotely.

“[R]ather than being a stable and respectful learning environment, schools are becoming places of hate and the use of derogatory slurs, stereotypes, and terms are rising among the students,” one of the students said at a Board of Education meeting at the end of April. “We are very disappointed with this behavior in our townspeople. In schools I’ve heard too much racial discrimination, online, in schools, and across town, from multiple people and this needs to  come to light to be treated as more than a joke.”

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