Black Students Harassed by Fellow Black Students for ‘Acting White’

Hat Tip to The Volokh Conspiracy.

Two Williamsburg County students and members of their family have reached a $150,000 settlement in what may be the first Title VI lawsuit based on claims of intra-racial discrimination in South Carolina public schools.

Lawrence “Larry” Kobrovsky, a Charleston attorney who focuses his practice on constitutional law and school issues, said the parties settled after a female student’s claims of sexual and racial harassment at a Salters school went to trial in U.S. District Court in Florence.

The suit was one of two against the Williamsburg County School District and school officials. The other suit, filed on behalf of the student’s uncle, was dismissed.

Both students were members of an African-American family that shared a home in rural Williamsburg County. Both attended public schools at the time of the alleged harassment.

The trial lasted two days, but the case never went to the jury.

Instead, the trial ended after the uncle testified. The next day, a settlement offer was on the table, Kobrovsky said.

“He gives a pretty raw and kind of unvarnished version of what it’s like to live in rural Williamsburg County and how the races interact and are separate, which is kind of a world apart. People who aren’t living there don’t see that,” Kobrovsky said.

The two students each received $50,000, and two family members who filed the suits on their behalf received $25,000 apiece, according to Kobrovsky. The settlements were reported to South Carolina Lawyers Weekly last week.

……”What made this unique is that this, as far as I know, is the only Title VI case ever brought in federal court when it’s an intra-racial hostile environment,” Kobrovsky said.

Title VI prohibits allowing a racially hostile educational environment in schools and programs receiving federal financial assistance and provides for a private cause of action for violations.

 ……She (the younger student) claimed she suffered emotional trauma because she was subjected to racial and sexual slurs at an elementary school in Salters during September and November 2006. She had to receive home instruction for the rest of the school year, according to an amended complaint.

Despite complaints, school administrative staff and district officials allowed the abuse to “escalate to the point where [she] was physically threatened, assaulted and battered,” the suit alleged.

……The suit also claimed that a school official and a district official, either individually or together, “retaliated” against the student by causing the state Department of Social Services to launch an abuse-and-neglect investigation of the plaintiffs and their household. The complaint said DSS determined the investigation, which included a strip search of the student, was unfounded.

In their answer, the defendants said DSS had investigated. But they denied causing the investigation and denied the other claims against them. 

……Proving intra-racial discrimination was a matter of portraying the environment cultural and racial at the students’ respective schools, Kobrovsky said.

Both students were African-American, and so was most of the elementary school’s student body, according to Kobrovsky. Most students were also black at the high school that her uncle attended.

The problem was the culture of rural Williamsburg County, he said.

“You have a culture where to act like you want to do well in school is considered acting white. And that is part of why we’re saying that it was racial, even though the students were all of the same race because they weren’t acting how the others thought they should be acting as members of that race,” Kobrovsky said.

 The uncle testified…..At the public schools…fitting in meant not being what his family was: “churchy,” “upright” and wanting education, as another witness put it, according to a trial transcript.

“You see, it’s a crime to act white, or it’s a crime to be white,” the uncle testified.

Harassment, he testified, made him feel that “we are just dumb, we’re just not people, we’re undergraded, we’re degraded, and we’re not even supposed to be in this world.”

If anyone thinks that a black kid facing a barrage of insults for “acting white” isn’t racially motivated, they’re dead wrong.  If the connotation is that they act educated, study hard, and keep their noses clean, then why not accuse them of being “nerds”? I attended racially mixed city schools. Don’t tell me that blacks don’t behave that way. I know better.  If “acting black” constitutes listening to rap, wearing  pants down around your  ankles, and cocked-to-the side, logoed-baseball hats,  then there’s a lot of white kids who “act black”.  (Eminem, anyone?)

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