School district sued for alleged civil rights violation
A former Lakeridge High School student is filing a lawsuit against Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de La Cruz, former School Board Chair Rob Wagner and LOSD, alleging the parties neglected to enforce the district's policy on racial discrimination and harassment.
A tort claim notice was sent to de la Cruz back in February, but it wasn't until November that a petition was filed at the Multnomah County Circuit Court asking for the appointment of attorney Kelly Jones as the student's guardian ad litem in court. The lawsuit itself is expected to be filed this month. The student is referred to in the case as P.B. due to their minor status.
According to the press release issued last week by Underdog Law Office and Sordyl Law, P.B. experienced harassment and racial discrimination by her junior varsity basketball teammates. They allegedly called themselves the "Caucasion Invasion," put P.B's "frizzy hair" into a meme, took photos of P.B. without their consent and called P.B. the N-word. The alleged harassment happened both on school grounds and on the Internet, the press release said.
According to the press release, on one occasion P.B. was directed by Lakeridge Assistant Principal Noah Hurd not to bring up matters of racial discrimination. Specifically, the release alleged that Hurd told the student, "It's not safe to talk about it."
"School officials not only failed to address the sustained pattern of race discrimination and bullying, they violated their own race discrimination policies," the press release stated.
On April 30 of this year, P.B. applied to graduate early in order to remove themselves from the racist school environment, the press release stated. That request was granted, according to the release.
The notice of the tort claim against de la Cruz said that Principal Desiree Fisher did nothing in response to P.B.'s complaint of hazing and harassment.
"Failure by your administration at Lakeridge High School to address acts of hazing, harassment and racism is an unqualified endorsement of it," the claim notice said.
Other LOSD officials named in the press release were Lakeridge Middle School Principal Kurt Schultz, LMS counselor Marcy Watts, Athletic Director Nathan Stanley, Lakeridge head basketball coach Jason Brown, Director of Secondary Programs Louis Bailey and counselor Brent Prasnikar.
In a statement to the Review, the district said it would not comment on the specifics of the investigation, adding that LOSD is committed to "creating a culture of belonging" for everyone in the district community.
"LOSD is committed to being an anti-racist organization. Our administrators, teachers, coaches and staff members are all actively engaged in the work," the statement said.
LOSD has made steps recently toward creating a more inclusive environment. It implemented an equity policy a year ago and passed an anti-racism resolution this June, among other things.
Wagner, who resigned from his board position earlier this year after being named Oregon's Senate majority leader, said he was unable to comment on the specifics of the case. However, Wagner said he's proud of what the district has done with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion.
"I fully wish for any student not to feel unwelcome in our schools. I'm proud of the district's efforts to implement diversity, equity and inclusion and anti-racist stance," Wagner said in a statement to the Review.
Hurd, Fisher and de la Cruz said they could not comment on the lawsuit.
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